Friday, May 22, 2015

Eggplant (Brinjal) Fry with Curry Leaves

Subtle flavors of curry leaves always spell South Indian cuisine for me. This is a very fragrant and extremely flavorful dish which is surprisingly easy to make. 

My love affair with curry leaves started very early on. When I was about 7 or 8 years old, we used to rent a place in one of the newer parts of Kolkata. We shared a common wall with the elderly owners of a local newspaper - they stayed and published from their home which was on a huge lot and were full of shady trees and flowering plants. The curry leaves plant and hibiscus plants crossed the boundaries of the brick wall and stooped over onto our side and the neighbors insisted that those two plants were as much ours as theirs. Such kind souls. That was how I was introduced to this fragrant herb. I cannot remember if my Ma used the curry leaves in her cooking, but I remember plucking a leaf or two, crushing them lightly between my palms and going on sniffing for as long as I could on while basking in the warm winter sun. 

Then we moved. Many years passed. I got married and moved to the husband's ancestral home. They have a couple of huge trees and many potted plants. Some of the pots were huge! They even had a very old bathtub which they had transformed into a planter and beautiful marigolds  added splashes of bright colors. Among them was a curry plant! 

I knew the husband for 6 years before we got married (yup, I was still in high school and he had just started college when we first started dating) and it was only post our wedding I got to know that he did not like the flavors of curry leaves. I would see him avoiding food that would have curry leaves in it, like dhokla. It wasn't until last year when I had made Dhokla at home and saw him gobbling it up, that I realized his dislike for curry leaves can be attributed to a very ill-made dish using curry leaves when he was growing up! 

Ever since I have been making dishes using curry leaves now and then, and he has never complained about the flavor.

Apparently, he doesn't like eggplants as well, unless it is Begoon Bhaja (Fried Brinjal, I make a baked version nowadays). I think, his feelings towards curry leaves and eggplants changed completely after he tasted this dish. 

  • Eggplant - 2 lbs or roughly 4 cups, cubed
  • Onions - 1 big, roughly chopped
  • Tomato - 1 big, chopped 
  • Garlic - 3 or 4 fat cloves
  • Curry leaves - 1 sprig
  • Cilantro - a handful, finely chopped
  • Dried Red Chili - 2 (or more depending on heat preference)
  • Chana Daal - 5 tbsp
  • Coriander seeds - 2 tbsp
  • Cumin Seed - 1 tbsp
  • Oil - 2 tbsp + 3 tbsp
  • Turmeric - 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan on medium heat. Once the oil is hot, temper with chana daal & red chili. Once it started sizzling, add coriander seeds and cumin seeds and fry till they start spluttering. Reduce the heat to low and add the onions, tomato, garlic, curry leaves and fry till fragrant. Transfer the cooked spice mixture to a mixer and blend till everything turns into a coarse paste.
Now cube the eggplants and sprinkle salt & turmeric on it. Leave it for 10-15 minutes. 
Re-heat the pan with 3 tbsp of oil and start frying the cubed eggplants in it. Sprinkle some more salt on it and fry for few minutes, tossing and turning with a spatula till the oil coats all the pieces. Slowly pour in the Masala paste onto it and toss to coat. Cook till the raw smell of the masala is gone and the eggplant pieces starts getting mushy. Cover and cook on low flame till the eggplant pieces are cooked through. If required splash a little water. Lastly, scatter the chopped cilantro leaves and give it one final toss. 

Serve hot with rice or roti. 

This recipe is inspired by VahChef's Eggplant Fry and modified with helpful tips from my friend (and also a blogger) PeeGee.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Strawberry Quick Bread with Lemon Glaze

Last 2 weekends were pretty eventful! First a weekend trip to Holland, MI where Tulip time celebrations were in full swing. The entire city was dotted with resplendent tulips! There were Dutch performers and a parade, music and yum food. Even though rain played a spoil-sport, it couldn't dampen our spirits amid so much vibrant beauty!
Then our very good friends came to visit us - it was three days straight of eating junk food, drinking, chatting non-stop, watching goofy videos on YouTube and laughing till our stomachs hurt!

Windmill Island
Windmill Gardens

  • All Purpose Flour - 2 Cups + 1 tbsp (for coating the strawberries)
  • Sugar - 3/4 Cup
  • Brown Sugar - 1/4 Cup, packed
  • Baking Soda - 1 tsp
  • Salt - 1/2 tsp
  • Cinnamon - 1/2 tsp
  • Vanilla Extract - 2 tsp
  • Egg - 1 large, at room temperature
  • Oil - 1/3 Cup
  • Buttermilk - 1 Cup (see notes)
  • Strawberries - 2 Cups, washed, dried, hulled and roughly chopped
For the lemon glaze, whisk together 1/2 Cup icing sugar and 1 1/2 tbsp (or more if you prefer intense lemony flavor) lemon juice till combined. Drizzle on the cooled down cake. 

Since I used a 8 inch loaf pan instead of a 9 inch one which the recipe called for, I scooped out the extra batter into a greased and floured mini bundt pan. The bake time was considerably less for the batter in the mini bundt pan - around 30 minutes. For the 8 inch pan - 55 minutes cook time. 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease the pan(s) with butter and dust it with some floor. Shake off the excess flour and set aside. 
In a large-ish bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In another bowl, beat the egg and sugars together till incorporated. Whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla extract and oil. Do not overmix. Slowly mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and gently mix everything together. Lastly, gently fold in the chopped strawberries which have been tossed in flour. 
Bake for 50 or 60 minutes till done. Best way to check if it is done is to insert a toothpick in the middle of the bread. If there are no crumbs sticking to it, it is done! Cool completely on a wire rack and drizzle with the lemon glaze. Slice using a sharp serrated knife to your preferred thickness. Enjoy with a cup of hot beverage or a cool drink! Store leftovers in an airtight container. After the first three days I stuck the container in the fridge and it stayed good for 7 days. 

Recipe adapted from SallysBakingAddicton

I am sending this to Kolkata Food Bloggers ongoing event

Monday, May 18, 2015

Quick Pickled Cucumber-Onion-Dill Summer Salad

Quick Pickled Cucumber-Onion-Dill Summer Salad

May has been a busy month so far! With the husband gone for the better part of the week, weekend trips, house guests and some volunteering work at the 5.5 yo's school thrown in, I have been pretty much on my toes! Amid all the busy-ness, we have been keeping a close eye on our sunny patch of potted and re-potted plants. A daily dose of sunshine, a healthy sprinkle of water and some nutritious plant food has brought about a lot of action - the dill seeds, marigold seeds, zinnia seeds have sprouted nicely while the oregano and parsley are taking a little longer. The re-potted plants are thriving I have used fresh dill leaves to make this salad!
This quick pickled Cucumber-Onion-Dill salad was a breeze to make and tasted wonderful with Chicken Curry & Paratha. And I just about managed to make it in time to send it to Kolkata Food Bloggers event - Summer Splash: Salads.

  • Cucumber - 1 large, cubed (or sliced)
  • Red Onion - 3 tbsp, cubed (or 1/2 of a medium onion, sliced)
  • Rice Vinegar - 2 tbsp (or white vinegar)
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar - 1/2 tsp
  • Freshly cracked pepper - 1/2 tsp
  • Allspice berries - 4 or 5
  • Dill - 1 tbsp, roughly chopped, preferably fresh
In a bowl, whisk together vinegar, salt, sugar, cracked pepper, allspice berries and dill together till the sugar gets dissolved completely. Add the cucumber and onions and toss to coat. Keep it aside for about 45 minutes and let the flavors marry. Serve as an accompaniment. 

I am sending this to KFB's Summer Splash Event

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Strawberry FroYo - No churn Frozen Yogurt

Strawberry FroYo - No churn Frozen Yogurt

Kolkata Food Bloggers is back with a series of summer special events. This week is dedicated to summer coolers. While it is just about getting warm here, summer heat is on full swing in Kolkata with the temperatures soaring. Chilled or light recipes are perfect for this weather.
The 5.5 yo was so excited to try it that he could hardly wait. He checked with me every 2 minutes if I was done taking photos yet. When I served him a bowlful, he polished it off within minutes. When I asked him if he liked it, he beamed and gave me a thumbs up and asked me if there more for him to eat the next day! I knew right away that this recipe is a keeper.
Those of you have been following me a while would remember that we went blueberry picking last year at a local farm. And of course we went overboard and brought back tons of blueberries - more than we could finish eating while still fresh. So I made quite a few recipes using blueberries. One of those was Blueberry Buttermilk Sorbet or Sherbet without Ice-cream Maker - a very similar recipe but a tad bit more time consuming.

Strawberry FroYo - No churn Frozen Yogurt

I had bookmarked this recipe from Himanshu's blog - thewhiteramekins a few weeks back and this was the perfect opportunity to try it out! I have been following and admiring Himanshu's work on a food photography group and that's how I found his blog - and I am so glad that I did. This one turned out so good!

Strawberry FroYo - No churn Frozen Yogurt

This is a very simple recipe and uses very few ingredients. And best part is that a food processor does the work for you. I just adjusted the quantities a wee bit.

  • Strawberries - 16 ounces (or about 2 Cups), hulled and cut into halves
  • Greek Yogurt (or hung curd) - 1 1/2 Cups
  • Honey - 1/3 Cup
  • Lemon zest - 3/4 tsp
Place the strawberries on a cookie sheet or a plate in a single layer and freeze overnight. Run the frozen strawberries in a food processor till they get pulverized into itty bitty pieces. Add the remaining ingredients and process till smooth. Transfer the mixture to metal pan - I used my aluminized steel loaf pan - and freeze for 4-5 hours till it sets. Once again I left it in the freezer overnight.
The 5.5 yo absolutely loved it! I usually used to get organic frozen yogurt pops for him from Wholefoods. So next time I am going to use freeze pop molds to make some FroYo ice-pops for him!

Strawberry FroYo - No churn Frozen Yogurt

I am sending this recipe to Kolkata Food Bloggers Summer Splash event

Monday, May 04, 2015

2-minute Eggless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Mug Cake

Disclaimer: Since I am allergic to peanuts, I had to rely on the 5.5 yo & the husband's feedback on the taste & texture. 

2-minute Eggless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Mug Cake

Ever since the husband has started traveling for work, Sunday mornings has become essentially family time. After a session of Skype chat with folks back at home, the three of us try to do something together. And it can be a chore too! The 5.5 yo loves dusting the furniture and the occasional cleaning and he absolutely LOVES folding clothes. So the three of us get a lot done! 

Yesterday, we re-potted some plants and sowed a few seeds. Next couple of weeks we will wait with bated breath to see whether the seeds sprout wee saplings. The re-potted plants stand a better chance, I am sure! My thumb is most definitely not green. And I have successfully killed off plants in the past. 

So after a morning of hard work, the man and the boy deserved a treat! I was more than happy to polish off an entire pack of Britannia Nice Biscuits with my cuppa. Talk about guilty pleasures! 

The 5.5 yo is also a  very active child and a picky eater at that. I am always on the lookout for easy to make snack options that are a little calorie rich, especially when I am out of bananas. It turned out to be soft and crumbly. The 5.5 yo loved the addition of chocolate chips to it. It is pretty filling and is perfect for a late afternoon snack with a side of fruits or a cup of milk, before the 5.5 yo heads out to bike or ride his scooter. 

2-minute Eggless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Mug Cake

  • Peanut Butter - 3 tbsp
  • All Purpose Flour - 3 tbsp
  • Milk - 4 tbsp
  • Sugar - 1 tbsp
  • Baking Powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Chocolate Chip - 1 tbsp (optional)
Whisk all the ingredients except chocolate chips in a big mug till the batter is smooth. Once everything is combined add the chocolate chips and fold them in gently. The batter will be pretty thick. No use the back of a spoon to smooth out the batter a little. 
    Nuke it in the microwave for a minute and then in increments of 15 seconds till it is done. The original recipe said that it will take a minute, but it took me 2 minutes. Depending on the make and power of your microwave, the cooking time will vary. So the safest way is to check at the 1-minute mark and cooking for as long required in increments of 15 seconds. 

    Serve warm. I had drizzled a little chocolate syrup on it too. 

    Recipe inspired from - kirbiecravings

    Saturday, April 18, 2015

    Baked Tofu - Black Bean Burgers

    Baked Tofu - Black Bean Burgers

    Tofu is my new favorite food. I have waited long enough before jumping on the tofu bandwagon. After asking my friend PeeGee (she blogs here) at least a hundred questions about tofu, I finally took athe plunge bought two packages of firm tofu from Wholefoods. Then I let them sit pretty in the fridge till they were dangerously close to the best before date! Once I made some, I was hooked! Now I make tofu at least once a week. 

    First time I had made a veggie stir fry with tofu, fed my friend and got her seal of approval. Since then there has been no looking back. That time as well, I had cut the tofu (after draining off the liquid) into longish cubes and baked it and then added to the stir fry! It was one of those rare occasions when I had totally forgotten to take a pic, even with my phone! 

    This Tofu-Black Bean burger requires a little pre-planning if you are not using canned beans and you have to prep your tofu a little ahead of time. Other than that these are pretty easy to make.  These are pretty versatile too! Add your choice of spices to the tofu-black bean mix and pick your choice of additions to the burger. We ate ours with some tomatoes and cucumber slices - we did not need to add anything else as these were bursting with flavors.

    Ingredients: Yield - about 7 patties
    • Tofu - 14 oz pack, soft or silken
    • Black Beans - 1 Cup, canned or cooked (I soaked a cup overnight in plenty of water and pressure cooked it the next morning - around 3 whistles. Drained the liquid and used it)
    • Onion - 1 small
    • Green Bell Pepper - 1 
    • Garlic cloves - 2 or 3 fat cloves
    • Cilantro - a handful, finely chopped
    • Salt to taste
    • Bread Crumbs - 1 Cup
    • Your favorite spice mix - 1 or 2 tsp, depending on your taste (I skipped this since I used Italian herbs flavored bread crumbs)
    • Burger Buns - we used organic whole-wheat buns from Wholefoods 
    • Additions of your choice - lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, arugula leaves, spinach etc. You can add a slice of cheese and/or a sauce as well if you prefer. 
    Drain as much water as possible from the tofu. I wrap it in a paper towel and weigh it down with a heavy pan for 20 minutes. Then discard the water, wrap it in a fresh paper towel and put the weight back on and leave it for another 20 minutes or so. Drain again and use.

    In a food processor pulse together the cooked black beans, onion, green bell pepper, garlic cloves and salt, till finely minced. 
    Transfer to a bowl. Now crumble in the tofu and add the bread crumbs. Throw in the finely chopped cilantro. Mix everything together. Taste it for seasoning. Add more spices or salt if required.
    Grease a cookie sheet/baking sheet with some oil and place the shaped patties on it. Now stick the cookie sheet in the fridge for 20 minutes. 
    Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the Tofu-Black Bean patties for 30 minutes. Assemble the burgers and serve. 
    If you want you can shallow fry the patties as well. In that case chill the patties a little longer. 

    Baked Tofu - Black Bean Burgers

    Friday, April 17, 2015

    Easy Peasy Rainbow Half Cake

    So the 5 year old turned 5 and a half year old last month! And he had asked for a half-birthday cake! How could I not bake him a cake after he says to me, "Mamma, I love you more than a baby walrus loves his mother!"
    I scoured the net and found this Easy Peasy Half Rainbow Cake. 
    He loves M&Ms (which kid doesn't!), he loves sprinkles and I had a box of pound cake mix sitting pretty in the pantry - so this cake was just perfect! 
    When he saw the cake after coming home, he beamed and asked me why did I make a rainbow cake for him. I found myself saying "...because you are the rainbow of my life!" and both of us laughed and laughed and laughed!

    Easy Peasy Rainbow Half Cake

    Here are some step-by-step photos to show how (easily) I made this!

    Easy Peasy Rainbow Half Cake

    You will need half a cake (of your choice) that is sturdy enough to stand, M&Ms in the colors of rainbow or as many colors you want, butter-cream frosting, some sprinkles and some mini marshmallows. 

     Slather the top with butter-cream frosting and cover it with sprinkles. 

    Easy Peasy Rainbow Half Cake

    Cover the side facing you with butter--cream and chill it in the fridge for 20 minutes.
     Arrange the M&Ms on it. If the sprinkles get onto the butter-cream do not worry about it too much, the M&Ms will cover the imperfections. But if you really want to, use a toothpick to take the sprinkles out. Chill again for 20 minutes and lastly cover the other side with butter-cream if you want to. I just found it easier to do it this way. Spread a little more butter-cream on the bottom and make it stand on the cake board and add few mini marshmallows to emulate clouds in the sky. 
    Now get ready to wow your child!
     Easy Peasy Rainbow Half Cake

    Inspiration from here!

    Tuesday, April 14, 2015

    Strawberry Sandesh

    Strawberry Sandesh

    Sandesh is a very Bengali thing. That and Rosogolla! Many times when I meet someone new from other parts of India and they come to know that I am a food blogger, I will invariably be asked if I can make Rosogolla. Each time I shake my head regretfully and tell them I can't while thinking that it will be considered nothing less than blasphemy if I tell them I do not like Rosogolla that much that I will go through the entire trouble of making them at home. Same goes with Sandesh! Yeah! Yeah! I know what you are thinking - am I Bengali enough! But at least Sandesh is easier to make than Rosogolla, so I decided to take the plunge and make some to usher in the Bengali New Year - Poila Boishakh. Why now, you ask me? Because the 5.5 yo loves Sandesh. And most other sweets from Bengal. And some more!

    I think my aversion towards Sandesh grew from very early on. I was always a picky eater. I always troubled my Ma plenty when it came to eating. And one of the many efforts that she made to make me eat healthy stuff was to mix chhana/chhena/cottage cheese with some sugar and use a Sandesh mould to give it a pretty shape and tell me it was Sandesh. Boom, therein started my love-hate relationship with Sandesh! I love Nolen Gur er Sandesh with all my heart, but nothing else. 

    With time and age (I guess it has to do with the older-wiser thing), my taste and preferences must have evolved. I thoroughly enjoyed these fresh Strawberry flavored pretty pink Sandesh which were not overly strawberry-ish. 

    Ingredients: Yield - 4
    • Whole Milk - 1 liter (about 4 1/4 Cup)
    • Lemon juice - 2 tbsp (add little more if required) plus 1/2 tsp for the strawberry compote.
    • Strawberry - 3/4 Cup, roughly chopped
    • Sugar - 3 tbsp (add more or less depending on the sweetness of strawberries)
    • Water - 2 tbsp
    • Some chopped pistachio for garnishing (optional)
    In a saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Add the lemon juice. The milk will start curdling immediately - if it doesn't add a little more lemon juice. Give it a few stirs. Once the whey separates, drain it using a cheesecloth or a muslin cloth. Before squeezing out the liquid run it under the tap if you wish to get rid of the lemony smell. Squeeze out as much water as possible. You can hang the chhena in the cheesecloth for about 30 minutes it or weigh it down with something heavy on it for about 10 minutes to drain out the remaining liquid. Once most of the liquid has drained, knead the chhena/chhana/cottage cheese with your palm. Knead it for 6-7 minutes till you start feeling oil on the palm. Keep aside. 

    In a separate saucepan, bring the strawberries, water, sugar and lemon juice to a boil on medium low heat. Using a wooden spoon, start breaking down the fruit as it cooks and the sauce thickens. Cook for about 7 to 8 minutes till most of the liquid has evaporated. Take it off the heat and let it cool down completely. Blitz the cooled down strawberry compote in a blender and puree it. 

    Now fold in the strawberry puree in the chhena gently till fully incorporated. If you see that there is little more moisture in the chhena-strawberry mixture than desired, cook it on low flame for few minutes till the moisture evaporates.  Keep stirring and scraping the whole time. 

    Shape the mixture in your desired shape. I find it easiest to use mini cupcake lines and set them in the muffin tin. Chill for 2-3 hours or till the Sandesh sets. Serve with a smile, and say "Subho Naba Barsha" - that's Happy New Year in Bengali. 

    Monday, April 13, 2015

    Chingri Malaikari: My Ma's recipe

    Chingri Malaikari: My Ma's recipe

    This week at Kolkata Food Bloggers is dedicated to Poila Baishakh or the Bengali New Year. The KFBians have been busy whipping up yummies which will be a part of their Poila Baishakh celebrations with their friends and family.

    It is funny how much the food that you have grown up eating spells 'comfort food'. Be it 'Kalai er Daal' or 'Alu Posto' or plain old 'Alu Chhokka' - nothing is more comforting than Ma's cooking. I was thrilled the first time I recreated one of my Ma's recipes and it turned out exactly the same, well almost. It immediately transported me back to my childhood and  how beautiful it was - the days of long summer vacations filled with laughter and fun-filled winter vacations and with no apparent sense of loss. Like one of my friends rightly said - "Birthdays and getting old are not so bad, except I didn't want any of our family elders to leave us and the little ones to grow up so fast!"

    • Shrimps - 14-15 pieces, medium, cleaned, deveined with the tail on
    • Onion - 2 tbsp, grated (fry your onions first and then make a paste if it turns bitter on grating or in the mixer)
    • Garlic - 1 tsp, grated
    • Tomato - 1 tbsp, grated
    • Oil - 1 tbs
    • Cinnamon - 1 inch
    • Cloves - 2
    • Cardamom - 2, split open
    • Bay leaf - 1
    • Paprika or Kashmiri Mirch - 1/2 tsp (optional, for marinating the shrimps)
    • Turmeric - 1/4 for the gravy + 1/2 tsp for marinating the shrimps.
    • Garam Masala - a fat pinch, powdered ((1 inch cinnamon, 2 cardamom pods, 3 cloves - powdered fine using a mortar pestle or spice grinder.) 
    • Coconut Milk (thick) - 3 tbs
    • Water - few tablespoons
    • Salt to taste
    • Sugar - 1/4 tsp
    I followed my Ma's recipe for the better part. The only difference is she that she does not always add grated tomato.  I even made tomato paste my Ma's way - boiled one tomato in water and then chilled it for a minute in ice cold water. The skin will get all wrinkly and come off easily. Then grated it. 

    Chingri Malaikari: My Ma's recipe

    Marinate the shrimps with turmeric, a pinch of paprika, a dash of lemon juice and salt. Set aside for 10-15 minutes. Lightly fry the shrimps till golden brown and keep those aside. I sometimes like to add the uncooked shrimp directly to the gravy and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes before taking it off the heat.
    In a pan heat oil and temper it with whole Garam Masala (cinnamon, cloves and cardamom) and bay leaf. Once the Garam Masala starts sizzling, add the onion and garlic paste and cook till the raw smell is gone. Spoon in the grated tomato carefully (it will splatter) and cook for few minutes till the oil separates. Now add the paprika (if using), turmeric, salt and sugar and cook for another minute of so. Now the coconut milk goes in. Fold it in gently till the cooked masala is nicely incorporated. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes and then add as much water needed to reach the right consistency.
    Once it starts simmering add the shrimps back in. Let the shrimps do their thing for a minute (or three if adding raw shrimps). Sprinkle the powdered Garam Masala and take it off the heat.

    Serve with plain white rice or Mishti Pulao.

    I am sending this Kolkata Food Bloggers' Bengali New Year event 

    Thursday, April 09, 2015

    Whole-wheat oil-free Banana Blueberry Muffins

    Whole-wheat oil-free Banana Blueberry Muffins

    I have been going through one of those phases again, when I preferred spending zero minutes in the kitchen and instead wanted to watch TV all the time.  And I am not even a TV addict, per se. Never have been one! There are a handful of programs that I like to watch, that's about it! But the last few weeks that is all I wanted to do. Watch TV. So of course blogging took a backseat as well. I was drawing a blank every time I sat down to think what my next post would be. I hope I will get back to my usual self soon. There are just too many fresh fruits and fresh veggies in the stores and I should really cook up a storm while those last! 

    I was randomly surfing the net a few days back when I chanced upon this article which said that I can switch out oil with applesauce in muffins. The ratio is 1:1  - say for 1/3 Cup oil, you use 1/3 Cup applesauce. Applesauce is pretty easily available here in the stores. I almost always have a jar of organic unsweetened applesauce on me. I love using it as an egg substitute. But I had totally forgotten to buy more after the last jar got over. And it was so cheerless and damp the whole day yesterday that I did not feel like venturing out just to buy a jar of applesauce. And here I was itching to experiment!
    To add fuel to the urgency I had a perfectly browned banana sitting in the fruit basket. So I set out to make applesauce at home (recipe here) and then experimented with my oil-free muffins. The result was beautifully moist 4 Whole-wheat Banana Blueberry Muffins (for us) and 3 Whole-wheat Banana Chocolate Chip muffins for the 5 and a half year old! 

    Whole-wheat oil-free Banana Blueberry Muffins

    Ingredients: Yield - about 7 
    • Whole-wheat flour - 1 Cup
    • Baking Powder - 1/2 tsp
    • Baking Soda - 3/4 tsp
    • Cinnamon Powder - 1 1/4 tsp
    • Salt - 1/4 tsp
    • Milk - 2 tbsp
    • Egg - 1 (room temperature)
    • Honey - 1/4 Cup
    • Vanilla Extract - 1 1/4 tsp
    • Applesauce - 1/3 (recipe here, or you can use store-bought)
    • Buttermilk - 1/4 Cup
    • Banana - 1, big, mashed
    • Blueberries/Chocolate Chip/Walnuts - 1/3 Cup

    Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners and keep aside.

    In a bowl, sift together the whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon powder and salt. In a separate bowl whisk together the applesauce, egg, honey, oil and vanilla extract. Whisk in the buttermilk. You can use store-bought buttermilk or make it at home (notes below). Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients along with the mashed banana and blueberries (or chocolate chip or walnuts) and fold in until just combined.
    Let the batter rest for 15 minutes. Spoon in the batter into the lined muffin tin. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes - use a toothpick to check for done-ness - it should come out clean. However, depending on your oven, baking time might differ. It might be a good idea to check around the 14-15 minutes mark and then keep checking in increments of 2 minutes. It took me 17 minutes.
    Cool and store in an airtight container. These should stay fresh for 4 days - ours never last that long!

    Whole-wheat oil-free Banana Blueberry Muffins

    Notes: For 1 Cup of Buttermilk - add 2 tbs of vinegar (or lemon juice) to a measuring cup and fill it till you reach the 1 Cup mark. Let it sit undisturbed for at least 15 minutes or till it curdles. 

    Wednesday, April 08, 2015

    Homemade Unsweetened Applesauce

    Homemade Unsweetened Applesauce

    I am a big fan of applesauce as an egg substitute in baking. Few days back, I came across an article which said that applesauce can be used in place of oil as well - just substitute one-for-one (1/3 for 1/3, 1/2 for 1/2, so on and so forth). I did not have any applesauce on hand (I usually buy a jar organic unsweetened applesauce from Wholefoods) and really did not want to venture out in the gloomy weather, so I thought of making my own applesauce.

    I remember when I was a wee kid, my Ma used to make me her version of applesauce for me to eat as an afternoon snack. She used to boil the unpeeled and cored apples with little sugar and water and mash it  to break it down a little. Sometimes she used to add little homemade cottage cheese (chhena/chhana) to it as well. Tasted pretty darned good! 

    I had 2 apples on hand (had to save the third one for the kid's afternoon snack), so put those to work! The 5 and a half year old is not a big fan of applesauce, so I made this just so that I can experiment with oil-free baking! 

    The yield was about 1/2 Cup.

    • 2 apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
    • 1/4 Cup water (add a little more if needed - my apples were not too big)
    • A fat pinch of ground cinnamon
    • A quick squeeze of lemon (optional)
    In a saucepan combine the apples, water and ground cinnamon and cover and cook on medium low heat till the apples become mushy - about 15-18 minutes or so. Let it cool down completely and using a fork or potato masher, pulverize the life out of the apple-mix (or just mash in a civilized manner) till you get a somewhat mealy sauce. 
    If you want sweetened version, just add a couple of tablespoons of sugar and you'll be good to go!

    Homemade Unsweetened Applesauce

    Recipe adapted from here

    Tuesday, April 07, 2015

    Spicy Avocado-Cucumber Soup

    Spicy Avocado-Cucumber Soup

    Changes in routine always throw me off course, even the slightest ones. And it can take me months to find my groove back! The husband was going through few changes work-wise which affected us a little too (but of course). Plus, the last leg of winter was especially brutal - that took a toll on all of us as well. I have been blogging less and less over the last couple of months. In fact I have not been cooking or baking much either - mostly quick fixes and one-pot meals. 
    Sometime in the last month I decided to try out at least one new recipe each week. I have been reading recipes and bookmarking, but did not get around to trying something out till today. Not sure if I can stick to one new recipe a week plan, but I am going to give it a shot! So here's what I made today.
    This chilled spicy Avocado-Cucumber Soup was pretty filling with the perfect amount of heat and I really enjoyed the creamy texture. 

    Spicy Avocado-Cucumber Soup

    This recipe was inspired from here - Food and Wine

    Ingredients: Yield - 3
    • Cucumber - 1, (I used half of an English cucumber)
    • Avocado - 1
    • Serrano Chile - 1, seeded and chopped
    • Thai Green Curry Paste - 1 tsp
    • Lime Zest - 1 tsp
    • Lime Juice - 1 tbsp, freshly squeezed
    • Unsweetened Coconut Milk - 1/2 Cup
    • Water - 1 1/2 Cup
    • Red Chili flake - a few pinches, for garnishing 
    • Coconut flakes - couple of tablespoons lightly toasted for garnishing (I skipped this)
    • Salt to taste

    In a mixer or a food processor, blitz the cucumber until smooth. Now add the avocado, lime zest and curry paste. Blend till smooth. Tip in the coconut milk, water and squueze in the lime juice. Run the processor till everything is nicely mixed in. Pour the soup into a large bowl and chill it in the fridge for about 20 minutes. 
    Sprinkle the toasted coconut flakes (if using) and chili flakes and serve chilled. I served it with some crunchy toasted french bread. 

    Friday, March 20, 2015

    And he turned 5 and a half!

    The 5 and a half year (today) old can talk non-stop! And he can come up with some "shock Mamma into silence" questions. Like a couple of months back...

    "Mamma, do you know what the F-word is?" I braced myself! My mind raced... so soon? I mean he's not even 5 and half (then)! I was fumbling for an appropriate response when he repeated the question once more, this time a little impatiently!
    I could barely manage a whisper... No, what is it?
    "Frog-face Mamma.. it means frog-face!"

    Relieved beyond words, I went on to lecture him on name-calling.. blah.. blah... blah.. the usual drill!

    He has stunned me to silence on many occasions, like the other day, when his father came back from a 4 day work trip to Washington D.C., one of the first things he told him was, "I think Mamma needs to retire!". Trust you me, I have not told him one word about retirement, and what do I retire from? 

    Then he will come up with questions like, "Does Iron Man (the superhero) iron clothes like you and Baba do?" which will make us burst out in laughter!

    "You are my Valentine everyday Mamma..!" - definitely takes the cake! 

    There are many, MANY such questions/comments/nonchalant statements that he is thrown at me over the years, I wish I had jotted those down!

    What can I say, I am bringing up a chatterbox! I will tell him to be quiet for a minute many times during the day, but the minute he goes off to school or is off to bed for the night, I miss his non-stop repartee and wisecrack comments. 

    So when he asked for a cake for his 5 and a half birthday party with gifts and balloons (there was no party, just the cake and some balloons), I could not say no! I scoured the internet for cake ideas and came up with this!

    M&M Rainbow Half Birthday Cake

    Very soon he's going to grow up and I am going to miss this sweet boy of mine terribly!  For now, I will enjoy this short-lived phase to the fullest!

    Cake inspiration from here!

    Tuesday, March 10, 2015

    Mango Chutney

    Mango Chutney

    I do not know what came over the husband that made him buy a mango for me while grocery-shopping at Wholefoods. He usually sticks to the list I message him and will pick up an occasional bar of chocolate or a pineapple when we are out! Since he is the only one who eats (he cuts it like a pro, I will take photos and share soon) a pineapple I will almost always forget to include it in the list!
    Anyways, long story short, I was stuck with one ripe, organic mango. And yes, you can call me a mango snob! Alphonso or the Mexican variety like this one is not my thing. I will only eat a mango as a fruit if it bloomed on a tree that has grown from a wee sapling to its majestic splendor on the soils of West Bengal. I have never met a mango outside West Bengal that I have liked. If I do, I will happily renounce my mango snobbery, I promise! For now, I will enjoy the mango chutney that I made.

    • 1 large ripe mango
    • 1 tsp mustard oil (you can use canola or vegetable oil)
    • 1/4 tsp of mustard seeds
    • 1 dried red chili 
    • 1 tsp grated ginger
    • A fat pinch of asafoetida
    • A pinch of salt
    • Brown sugar or regular sugar adjusted to your preference, I used one heaped tablespoon of brown sugar
    Cut the mango around the stone and cube the flesh.Scrape off all the flesh from the peels as well. Back home, we always soak the mangoes for sometime in tap water before cutting.
    Heat the mustard oil in a saucepan on medium-high heat and temper it with the mustard seeds, pinch of asafoetida and the dried red chili. You can use canola or vegetable oil, but I just love the jazzy pungency of mustard oil. Once seeds start crackling, add the mango pulp to it along with sugar and a pinch of salt. Cook for few minutes till the mango pieces break down and turns slightly darker. Add the grated ginger and cook for a minute or two. Take it off heat and let it cool it down completely before transferring it to an airtight container. Keep it refrigerated. I love eating a huge spoonful of it with lunch or dinner or just like that! It takes care of my untimely sugar cravings!

    I will be making some raw mango chutney soon!

    Monday, March 09, 2015

    Individual Raspberry Cheesecakes topped with Raspberry Compote

    Individual Raspberry Cheesecakes topped with Raspberry Compote

    Yay! It is getting warmer here at last! Spring is almost here with its bouquet of earthy aroma and the faint hint of pretty blossoms. We are feeling pretty sprightly and hopeful that the warmer temps are here to stay! Sunny days, outdoor play, promise of vibrant blossoms and spring bounty - what is there not to love! 
    On this happy note, I thought of doing a little spring-cleaning in the draft section of my blog! So here's the Individual Raspberry Cheesecakes topped with Raspberry Compote that I had made a few weeks back!


    For the cheesecake:
    • Graham Cracker Crumbs - 1 1/4 Cups
    • Butter - 5 tbsp (at room temperature)
    • Cream Cheese (at room temperature) - 4 oz
    • Ricotta Cheese - 1/2 Cup
    • Raspberry Compote - 3 tbsp (recipe here)
    • Raspberry Jam - 1 tsp (optional)
    • Eggs - 2 (at room temperature)
    • Sugar - 6 tbsp
    • Fresh raspberries for garnish (optional)
    For the topping: 5 tbsp of Raspberry Compote

    Preheat oven to 350 F. 

    In a bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs with butter till it is a crumbly mix. Line a muffin tin with using two cupcake liners in each cavity. That just holds the batter better. Drop a tablespoon of graham cracker mix into each muffin tin hole/cup and using your fingers press it down firmly. 
    In a food processor make a smooth batter by mixing together the cream cream cheese, ricotta cheese, raspberry compote, eggs, sugar and raspberry jam (if using). Spoon in the batter till about the 4/5th mark. 
    Now fill an ovenproof bowl with some hot water and place it on the rack below the muffin tin inside the oven. You can stick in the bowl in the oven when you start preheating it. The steam will keep the cheesecake moist and prevent it from cracking. Also curb all your urges to open the oven door and peep as this will bring the temperature inside the oven down which might also result in a cracked pr sunk cheesecake. Though this step is more important when baking a whole big cheesecake instead of itty bitty individual ones in a muffin tin, I do it anyways!
    Bake for about 25 minutes or till it is firm on the edges and a little jiggly in the middle. Once it cools down, let it chill in the fridge for at least couple of hours for it to set perfectly. Scoop spoonfuls of the raspberry compote on top. Garnish it with fresh raspberries and serve.

    Individual Raspberry Cheesecakes topped with Raspberry Compote

    Wednesday, February 25, 2015

    Whole Wheat Bread inspired by Rakhee

    Yes! Something that I have been waiting for make for a long time now! All I needed was a little push!  This is the last week of KYB 2 and as this wonderful event comes to an end, we at KFB are a little older, a lot wiser (since we got to know so much about our fellow bloggers and their style of cooking/baking) and our recipe stockpile grew by volumes. 
    Spend two minutes on Rakhee's space - The Simple Pleasures of Baking and you will know that baking is her thing and not just cakes and cookies, but bread! I have immense respect for people who bakes so effortlessly with yeast. So far, all of my yeasty bakes have been a success, but I still get jittery at the mere thought of baking with yeast! Mommy to a very cute daughter and a busy professional, she still finds time to bake for her family.
    Visit her page to learn how to bake a 100% Whole Wheat bread without using vital wheat gluten. She has used yogurt (can be replaced with vinegar) which makes her bread soft.
    Since I was using vital wheat gluten (not yogurt), I got another KFBian - Sayantani (of A Homemaker's Diary) to help me with a recipe! And she was gracious enough to not only provide me with one but help me at all odd hours and answer my 1001 questions!

    I am sharing just the photos this time! Will share the recipe soon. But in the meantime do visit Rakhee's space and check out her recipes.

    Tuesday, February 24, 2015

    Raspberry Compote

    Raspberry Compote

    Another quick post minus the banter. Berry (or stone fruit) compotes perfectly sweet and slightly tart and takes even the most mundane of food to another level. Add some to your morning oatmeal or your pancakes/waffles and you have yourself a special little treat! 

    This recipe is roughly adapted from here!

    • Raspberries - 1 Cup
    • Granulated Sugar - 2  tbsp (use more if  you prefer don't prefer it tart)
    • Lemon Juice - 1 tbsp
    • Cornstarch - 1/2 tsp
    Heat all the ingredients in a saucepan, on medium-low heat while stirring occasionally. Simmer till the raspberries break down and the sauce start to thicken. Let it cool down before serving. I added dollops of it to my Individual Raspberry Cheesecake. 

    Tuesday, February 17, 2015

    Chai Spice Glazed Muffins

    Chai Spice Glazed Muffins - Wholewheat & Eggless

    I have made two versions of this Chai Spice Glazed Muffin - with Whole-wheat Flour + Egg & All Purpose Flour without egg - and each turned out pretty darn good! Just a few tweaks here and there and you have more than one way to make this!
    I baked and took some of these (the AP Flour and eggless version) for my friend's daughter when we visited them during Christmas and she loved them. Since she is allergic to many things she misses out on many treats. But the sweet little soul hardly complains and braces her allergies bravely! I am so glad that she loved these and the Eggless Chocolate Brownies that I made for her! I am so glad that she loved them. 
    Today I made the Whole-wheat with egg version. Honestly, I did not think that the 5 year old will enjoy eating these, but he did!! Maybe because he helped me bake these or perhaps it was wrong of me to assume that he won't like it just because there was no chocolate chips in it! He however insisted that I add a little red&blue (his favorite colors) sprinkles on his. He mentioned more than once that he LOVED these! Happy Mamma!

    Chai Spice Glazed Muffins - Wholewheat & Eggless

    Ingredients for the Muffins: Yields 6  
    • Whole-wheat Flour  - 1 1/3 Cup (You can use All Purpose Flour as well)
    • Butter - 2 tbsp
    • Oil - 2 tbsp (I used canola)
    • Granulated Sugar - 1/4 Cup
    • Light Brown Sugar - 3 tbsp
    • Applesauce - 1/3 Cup (or 1 egg at room temperature)
    • Baking Soda - 1/8 tsp
    • Baking Powder - 3/4 tsp
    • Ground Cinnamon - 1 tsp
    • Ground Cardamom (green) - 3/4 tsp
    • Ground Allspice - 1/2 tsp
    • Ground Ginger - 1/2 tsp
    • Black Pepper - 1/8 tsp, finely ground
    • Salt - 1/2 tsp
    • Vanilla Extract - 1/2 tsp
    • Milk -  3/4 Cup + 1 tbsp (1/2 Cup if using All Purpose flour)
    Ingredients for the Glaze:
    • Confectioners Sugar -  - 1/4 Cup, sifted
    • Butter - 2 tbsp, melted
    • Milk - 2 tsp (more or less)
    • Allspice - 1/4 tsp
    • Cardamom Powder - a fat pinch
    • Cinnamon Powder - a fat pinch
    • Ginger Powder - 1/4 tsp
    • Freshly cracked black pepper - a pinch
    Chai Spice Glazed Muffins - Wholewheat & Eggless

    Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake lines. This recipe will yield about 6 or 7 muffins.
    In a bowl, cream together the butter, oil and sugars until smooth. Add the applesauce (or egg) and beat till incorporated.
    Next, stir in the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon powder, green cardamom powder, ginger powder,  allspice, cracked black pepper, salt and vanilla. Mix gently to combine.
    Add the flour 1/3rd Cup at a time into the butter and spice mixture alternating with the milk. Fold in to combine but do not over-mix.
    Let the batter rest for about 20 minutes. 
    Scoop the batter into lined muffin tin, about 2 to 3 tbsp in each till it is almost full.
    Bake the muffins in the preheated oven for 15 to 17 minutes, till a toothpick inserted into the middle  of a muffin comes out clean. 
    While the muffin is baking, prepare the glaze.
    Take the muffins out and transfer to a cooling rack.
    Once the muffins have cooled down slightly, dunk the muffin crown into the glaze and let it harden. 
    Go ahead and double dip it if you want. 

    For the glaze: In a bowl, whisk all the ingredients listed under Glaze till smooth.

    Recipe adapted from My Baking Addiction

    Couscous Salad inspired by Antara

    Oh boy! Is it cold outside! I mean bitterly cold! Grey and blustery! Snowy and frigid! I wish I could crawl into a semi-hibernation mode, slowly and steadily! Somebody needs to douse me with gallons of hot tea or brandy, may be! Sadly, curling up with a favorite book under a cozy blanket drinking endless cups of steaming tea (made by someone else) is a luxury - it is a price one has to pay for growing up!
    This was an extra long weekend, today being President's Day and the 5 year old's school was closed on Friday as well. The arctic blast forced us to stay in for the better part. Last night the school declared that it is going to be a snow day today as well! Staying in means cooking a lot and eating a lot! And that is exactly what we have been doing!

    At KFB, this week belongs to Antara Ray of Antypasti and this recipe is inspired by her Mediterranean couscous salad! Her blog is a wonderful mélange of exotic travels and exquisite food. A Management Consultant by profession, she manages to steal time away from her busy life to go on vacations, submerge herself in culinary adventure of sorts and share those delicious experiences with us!

    The husband teases me often saying that I sometimes buy things just so that my pantry looks good! Guilty as charged! I just love opening the cabinet doors and looking at the spices and lentils and what-nots. This recipe also gave me the opportunity to open the box of couscous which had been sitting pretty on the top shelf for a while now!

    • Couscous - 3/4 Cup, uncooked
    • Chicken Broth (or water) - 1 Cup
    • Tomatoes - 3/4 Cup (I used grape tomatoes, halved)
    • Cucumber - 3/4 Cup, cubed
    • Kalamata Olives - a handful, halved and pitted
    • Dried Dill Weed - 2 tsp (you can use fresh as well)
    • Olive Oil - 2 tbsp
    • Lemon Juice - 1 tbsp (or more if you prefer it a little more tangy)
    • Salt to taste 
    • Feta Cheese - a handful (I had no feta on hand, and it was too cold to go out to buy some)
    In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat and stir in the couscous. Remove from heat, cover and let it stand undisturbed for 5 minutes. Then fluff it using a fork. Or, you can cook the couscous according to the package instruction.
    In a large-ish bowl, throw in the halved tomatoes, olives, cubed cucumbers and dill weed. Add the couscous to it and mix to incorporate.
    In another small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, oil and salt. Drizzle it over the couscous and toss to mix. Cover and refrigerate to let the flavors blend in.
    Sprinkle cheese before serving.

    I am sending this recipe to KFB's Know Your Blogger 2 event

    Friday, February 06, 2015

    Mashed Butternut Squash with a drizzle of mustard oil

    While picking up some frozen veggies from Wholefoods, I chanced upon a bag of butternut squash and suddenly had an intense craving for 'kumro bhaatey' or mashed pumpkin that Ma used to boil along with rice and serve with a healthy drizzle of mustard oil. I could almost smell it! I picked the bag up, stuck it in the freezer and then forgot about it for a whole week. We make plans, then life gets in the way and cravings take a backseat but thankfully not for long! This was not exactly like mashed pumpkin, but satiated my craving nonetheless!

    Steam (or boil) 1 Cup of butternut squash. Heat 1 tsp of mustard oil and temper it with a 1/2 tsp of nigella seed and 1 green chili (chopped). Once the seeds start spluttering, add the steamed butternut squash to it. Break it down suing a wooden spoon or spatula. Season it with salt and cook till all the liquid dries up. 

    Enjoy with piping hot rice. I overate, of course. 

    Tuesday, February 03, 2015

    Marshmallow Pops for my little Valentine

    Over the last 18 years that I have known (and been in a relationship) with the husband, I can remember just a handful of times that we have celebrated Valentine's Day. We have spent many a Valentine's Day apart, sometimes in different countries, sometimes in different cities and sometimes even in different continents. Yes, a couple of them involved roses and gifts and gifts for each other (we were young once), but that was a long LONG time back. Nowadays, we are just happy to stay in, eat good food and drink our favorite wine while watching a movie. 
    This year it is all different! I have a new Valentine! One who is counting down the days till Valentine's Day, making card after card for his Baba & Mamma, who has reminded me more than once not to forget to buy cards for his friends and who has been asking me repeatedly if we can have a Valentine's Day party(!!!). I do not think he understands the nuances behind the day but there is definitely a lot of LOVE and excitement involved. I did not promise him a party but I did make him some Valentine's Day Special Marshmallow Pops. 

    Marshmallow Pops for my little Valentine


    • Marshmallows - about 10 or 12. bigger the better
    • Paper Straws - as many as the marshmallows
    • Candy melt - about a cup (I used Wilton's Candy melts)
    • Sprinkles of your choice
    Melt the candy melts according to package instruction. Cut the paper straws to desired length, and poke through at least two-thirds way into the marshmallows. Roll each marshmallow in the melted candy, shake off excess and dabble it in the sprinkles. I used a small bucket, filled with rice to stick the pops in. Let it dry before serving or it will drip all over. Store extras in a Ziploc bag or an airtight container. These should be good for 5 days. 

    These are inspired by my friend Gen's Christmas Marshmallow pops!

    Marshmallow Pops for my little Valentine

    I am sending this to Kolkata Food Bloggers 
    Valentine's Day Celebrations

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