Adieu 2015 and Welcome 2016

This is my first year end post and I am pretty excited that I actually blogged regularly this year. The main reason is the blogging marathon which is a manna from heaven as far as I am concerned.
2015 has been a transformative year for me. It’s a year of many firsts –

  • For the first time in my life, I moved out of India and that affected me a lot more than I thought it would. 
  • This is the first year I am a full time stay at home person not generating any income of my own and that feels weird beyond imagination.
  • This is the first year that I have enjoyed my time in the kitchen and haven’t tried to run away at the first given (or grabbed) opportunity and I have this blog to thank for that.
  • This is the first year I did not have a helping hand for household chores and I realized what a huge task that was. Coupled with the responsibility of taking care of an active two year old, I did reach the outer limits of sanity. Again, this blog and the blogging marathon gave me the space to regain my sanity. 

But if I will remember 2015 for anything, it would be for all the travel we managed to squeeze in. We travelled to Langkawi, Bangkok, Krabi, Singapore, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Ipoh plus brief trips to Mumbai and Chennai. That compensates for the past six years of no vacation. 

My cooking and baking journey has been very enriching this year. I am hugely impressed by the book ‘Cooked’ by Michael Pollan that I read this year. I have been meaning to write about it and should do it soon. One of the key takeaways for me was the idea of cooking from scratch. So my endeavor has been to buy the basic items and make as many things as possible. I have started making the ‘podis’ I use -sambhar podi, rasam podi, etc. So now we get fresh and better podis and my sambhars have significantly improved. Next on the agenda is to try making garam masala and tea masala.

I started exploring different cuisines and new dishes and most importantly I learned a lot about leftover management. Trust me, that’s an art in itself. Another skill I picked up was reducing the number of vessels in the sink. It was a necessity since I was the one cleaning all the dirty dishes at the end of the day. I have baked a lot more this year and mostly managed to keep my resolution of using the oven at least once a week. 

The real change, I guess, is that I think a lot more about food now. I was the person who could survive on curd rice and bread for days on end. I never looked keenly at my plate throughout my childhood and teenage. I was firmly in the category of ‘eat to live’. Now, I am conscious of what I cook and what I put on my plate – is it healthy, is it nutritious, is it tasty, etc. I made it a point to eat some local dishes during our travel and I managed to google and find recipes for dishes I liked. I made an effort to find out about the local specialities and tried figuring out vegetarian variations. Most weren’t successful but I am glad I have begun making the effort.

Another amazing thing that I could do was grow some vegetables in the garden. It was an extremely frustrating and exciting time. I had more misses than hits this year but I still managed to grow lady’s fingers and French beans and some mint leaves. That’s good for a start, I guess.

The best part of my food journey this year is definitely the Blogging Marathon. It helped me blog regularly which I did not do in the past. It connected me to some wonderful people who are generous with their ideas and advice. I have read about the little nuggets of their lives, been amazed at their dedication to blog despite personal issues at various points in time and been inspired and motivated to make this space a little better with every blog post. 

And now to the flip side of the Blogging Marathon. Of course, there is a flip side and this one spells – Husband who is pretty irritated when he sees me with my phone in hand reading seriously and commenting. But the complaints have reduced significantly with every new dish and he sees the benefits accruing to him thanks to Blogging Marathon.

I have a huge to-do list for 2016. On the top of my head are –

  • To explore more cuisines – Mediterranean and Italian to start with
  • To experiment more with locally available ingredients
  • To make my dishes healthier ( and hopefully lose some weight)
  • To stop buying bread and bake it every week. (The sad condition of store bought bread here should help)
  • To get at least one photo accepted by FoodGawker and the like by the end of this year. 
  • To reach out and get more people to read this blog 
  • To plan my dishes and blog posts better instead of the last minute rush.
  • To read more about food and cooking and baking. 
  • To make more dishes from scratch 

That should keep me busy the coming year.

Happy New Year to you! Have a sumptuous and enriching 2016.

  
This is going to the Best of the Year by Srivalli

So how was your 2015?

Advertisements

Classic Fruit Cake

   

I can’t believe that I have successfully completed the Bake-a-thon. One whole month of various bakes has been amazing. I must admit it looks nothing like I had planned – I wanted to include the pineapple upside down cake which has been on my to-do list forever. I wanted to try out lasagna which also is long time pending. But due to various reasons, I couldn’t do quite a few dishes of what I had originally planned. But I tried other dishes that I had no idea about. So it’s not all bad.
   

This fruit cake is for my husband. He loves this cake and has been asking me to make it. During his growing up years, his neighbor was the owner of an Iyengar Bakery. So you can imagine the fun treats the husband was privileged to. Ever since, he has his self made tradition of getting a fruit cake every Christmas. We didn’t find a good one this year and so he kept bugging me and finally I relented. This cake is also a small thank you to him for being very understanding and supportive during this month. 

I admit I wasn’t as prepared as I was hoping to be to be able to blog thrice a week. Quite a few dishes and posts were left to the last minute and I was frantically rushing all around. The husband was sweet enough to come early from work and take care of the daughter so that I could blog in peace. The best part was him asking me before eating anything – “Have you clicked all the pictures you need? Can I eat this now?” 

This recipe is from the TV show – Baking with Anna Olson. It’s easy and the cake turned out delicious. I did not use alcohol but replaced it with tea. Was still good! So here goes –

WHAT WE NEED

Mix dried fruits and candied peel                      2 1/4 cups

Strong tea                                                                   1 1/2 cup

Unsalted butter, at room temperature              1/3 cup

Brown sugar                                                               1/3 cup

Egg                                                                                 1

All purpose flour                                                       1 cup

Baking powder                                                           1/2 tsp

Pecans / Walnuts, chopped                                    1/3 cup

WHAT TO DO

  • Boil a cup and half of water and dip three teabags in it to make the tea and set aside to cool.
  • Take the dried fruits and candied peel in a bowl and add one cup of the cooled tea and mix well.
  • Refrigerate the other half cup of tea.
  • Keep the mixture covered with cling wrap overnight. Do not refrigerate.
  • The next day, preheat the oven to 150C
  • Remove the tea from the fridge and let it reach room temperature
  • Take butter and sugar in a bowl and beat them till they are light and fluffy.
  • Add the egg and beat it again.
  • Sift and add the flour, baking powder and salt to the butter mixture.
  • Drain the tea from the soaked dried fruits and add 1 tbsp of it to the mixture.
  • Add the pecans/ walnuts.
  • Add the soaked dried fruits and mix well.
  • Grease a 9″ loaf pan or 7″ round pan generously
  • Pour the batter and bake for 80 minutes.
  • Once the cake is removed from the oven, take a brush, dip it in the tea and brush it on the cake.
  • Repeat it two more time within an hour.
  • Let the cake cool completely.
  • Remove the cake form the pan after it has fully cooled
  • Enjoy!

NOTES

  1. The original rexipe uses alcohol but I have replaced it with tea. If you want to use alcohol use brandy, sherry or rum.
  2. If you are using walnuts instead of pecans, then add some sugar to the tea mixture after you remove it from the refrigerator. The strong tea tends to dilute the sugar in the cake.
  3. Dried fruits and candied peel include raisins, candied ginger, candied orange peel, candied lemon peel, glazed cherries, etc. you can also add dried apricots, prunes and dates.

  


This is part of the
Bake-a-thon 2015 


 

Another way to bake potatoes

 

My two and half year old daughter has been pretty involved in bake-a-thon with me. Her eyes sparkle when I switch on the oven to preheat it and she runs around screaming -‘Amma, cake, bread’ irrespective of what is being baked.

The best part was the husband asking her – ‘what is Amma doing?’ She replies ‘cooking’.

The husband exclaims – ‘That’s nice. I am hungry and I want to eat.’ That’s when the daughter calmly explains to her father – ‘No Appa. Amma cooking, take photo and eating is only after photo. Please wait.’ The husband’s expression was priceless. 

  

This easy version of baked potato is a must try. It’s a lot crisper than hassle back potatoes and less effort than au gratin and hash browns.

I happened to comes across this recipe just as I was wondering what to come up with for today’s post.

So here goes –

Makes 9 stacks

WHAT WE NEED

Potatoes, medium size       3

Olive oil                                    1 1/2 tbsp

Parmesan, grated                  2-3 tbsp

Thyme, dried                          2 tsp

Salt & pepper

WHAT TO DO

  • Preheat the oven to 190C
  • Grease a muffin tray
  • Slice the potatoes into thin roundels.
  • In a bowl, take olive oil, 2 tbsp of Parmesan and 1 1/2 tsp thyme
  • Add the potatoes and mix well to coat all the slices
  • Add salt and pepper and mix
  • Arrange in stacks in a muffin tray
  • Bake for 35-40 mins till the edges and top are golden brown.
  • Take it out from the oven and garnish with the remaining Parmesan and thyme.
  • Enjoy!

  
  

NOTES

  1. You can stack the potatoes as high as possible in the muffin tray. The potato slices will shrink on baking and the stacks will appear smaller than when you put them in the oven.
  2. Preferably put the larger slices in the bottom so that they hold the stack well.
  3. Grease the muffin tray liberally else the potatoes will stick.

 


This is part of the
Bake-a-thon 2015 


 

Sugared Sables 

 

There are cookies and there are cookies. This one, though, should have been named buttery sables. It simply melts in your mouth, which is not surprising considering the amount of butter added. But it’s so worth it because you get such goodness rarely and it must be enjoyed. Christmas time after all!

   

It’s a sweet, simple recipe to cookie heaven from the book, ‘500 Cookies: The only cookie compendium you will ever need’. It is recommended to have these with some dessert wine.

So here goes –

Makes 35-40 cookies

WHAT WE NEED

All purpose flour                            3 1/4 cups

Confectioner’s sugar                    1 1/2 cups

Butter, at room temperature      1 1/4 cups

Vanilla extract                                2 tsp

Raisins (optional)                          1/2 cup

Egg white                                         1

Coarse sugar                                   2 tbsp
WHAT TO DO

  • Sift flour and the confectioner’s sugar in a bowl
  • Add the butter and mix well.
  • Add the vanilla and raisins
  • Knead the dough lightly until smooth.
  • Divide the dough into 4 
  • Roll each part of the dough to a log of 1 1/2 inch wide.
  • Refrigerate till the dough gets firm (around 1 hour)
  • Preheat the oven to 190C
  • Grease 2 baking trays or line them with parchment paper
  • Take out the dough and cut each log into 1/4 inch sized slice.
  • Bake them for 10-12 minutes 
  • Cool on a wire rack
  • Enjoy!

   

    

 
IMG_0399-0

This is my entry for the Cooking from Cookbook Challenge hosted by Srivalli.


This is part of the
Bake-a-thon 2015 


 

Not just another banana bread

 
Banana bread is one of those bakes which has a million recipes each as awesome as the next. But some of them do stand apart like this one. The fun part is it doesn’t need oil, butter, sugar or wheat flour. So yay! 
 And the not so good part is, atleast for me, it turned  out a tad undercooked and a bit sticky. Am not sure where I bungled up but it tastes awesome and so the daughter and husband have heartily forgiven me.

The recipe is from here and here goes –

WHAT WE NEED

Rolled oats                       1 1/4 cup

Mashed bananas            3/4 cup

Baking soda                     1/2 tsp

Baking powder                3/8 tsp

Ground Cinnamon         1/2 tsp

Salt                                      A pinch

Vanilla essence               3/4 tsp

Vinegar                              2 1/4 tsp

Milk                                    2 tbsp + 2 tsp

Honey / maple syrup     1/4 cup

Raisins (optional)           2 tbsp

Choco chips (optional)  2 tbsp     

WHAT TO DO

  • Preheat the oven to 190C
  • Grind the oats to a fine powder
  • Mix all the ingredients together, except raisins and choco chips
  • Add the choco chips and raisins and mix well
  • Grease a 6 * 2 1/2 loaf pan
  • Pour the batter into the pan
  • Bake for 35 minutes
  • Let the bread sit inside the oven for 10 minutes after it is baked. Don’t open the oven till then
  • Open the oven after the 45 minutes and let it cool completely (around 1 hour)
  • After an hour or so, in mould the bread and enjoy!

 
NOTES

  1.  I made a very small loaf since I had limited quantities of the rolled oats. The original recipe is double this one and can be baked in a 9 *5 pan.
  2. If you want to make this a vegan recipe, you can substitute the milk for almond or soy milk.


This is part of the
Bake-a-thon 2015 


 

Crispy Garlic Pita Toasts

  

I couldn’t finish all my pita bread in those sandwiches I made and the ominous warning on the packet of using the bread within 24 hours  had me worried. What to do? What to do? That’s when, coincidentally, I chanced upon this recipe – the perfect solution to all my pita problems. Crispy pita toasts with garlic flavour. I was in bread heaven.

  

The lovely part was that it was quick and easy and made with all the ingredients I had readily available, not to mention the daughter loved it. Blissful day!

So here goes –

WHAT WE NEED

Pita Bread                               2

Olive oil                                    1 tbsp

Salt

Pepper                      

Garlic cloves                           2-3

Cheddar cheese, grated      1-2 tbsp
WHAT TO DO

  • Preheat the oven to 180C
  • Cut pita bread into quarters
  • Brush them with olive oil
  • Finely chop the garlic and top the pita bread 
  • Add salt and pepper
  • Sprinkle the grated cheese on top
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes till the pitas are crispy and golden brown
  • Enjoy with any dip of your choice!


  

NOTES

  1. The cheese is optional but I used it because that would make it easier to give it to my daughter.
  2. You can also add paprika with salt and pepper


This is part of the
Bake-a-thon 2015 


 

Moroccon Spaghetti kinda sorta….

  

First my disclaimer – I have never had moroccon spaghetti before. So I have no clue as to how it’s supposed to be. I found this awesome recipe in this book called – Accidental Vegetarian. There are some pretty interesting and new combinations in this book.

IMG_3315

And the second disclaimer is that I haven’t stayed true to the recipe from the book either. It was to have chickpeas and flaked almonds which I substituted with broccoli and ground almond all because I had to finish that spaghetti staring at me in the pantry.

So here goes –

Serves 3

Spaghetti                 300 gms

Olive oil                    1 1/2 tbsp

Onion                        1

Garlic                        3 cloves

Broccoli                    150-200 gms

Cherry tomatoes    10-15

Almonds                    5-6

Cinnamon, ground 1 tsp

Cumin, ground        1 tsp

Ginger, ground         1 tsp

Cloves, ground         1/2 tsp

Salt & Pepper
WHAT TO DO

  • Cook the spaghetti as per packet instructions .
  • Finely chop onion, garlic, broccoli and cut the tomatoes into halves.
  • Heat oil and add the onion and garlic. Cool till soft
  • Add the brocolli, cinnamon, cumin and tomatoes and cook over medium heat for around 10 minutes till they are completely cooked
  • Add salt and pepper and almonds and mix well.
  • Add the cooked pasta and mix to combine.
  • Enjoy!

IMG_3316

NOTES

  1. Optimal tip – garnish with parsley or mint leaves or some ground almond.

IMG_0399-0

This is my entry for the Cooking from Cookbook Challenge hosted by Srivalli.

Vegetable stuffed Pita Sandwiches

   

I love pita bread and this recipe here is one of my regular ones. Technically there is no recipe. I just add what I like and what I have on hand and the sandwich is ready, which is what a sandwich is all about. So this is usually a Friday dinner since grocery shopping is Saturday and I am left with bits and pieces of various vegetables. No one veggie is enough for an entire meal but together they work very well.
 

In this particular one, I have used French beans (which now grow in my garden and will henceforth be part of all my mixed veg dishes), baby corn, cherry tomatoes, onions and spring onions. To this I added some cayenne pepper, cumin seeds, ajwain and salt. I mixed some sour cream (which was leaping to its expiry date) and mayonnaise in equal parts and added some yellow mustard and onion powder for some flavour. Some cheddar cheese needed to be finished and so they were added too. Voila! 

So here goes my recipe –

WHAT WE NEED

Pita bread                               3

Onion                                       1, large

French beans                         8-10

Baby corn                                6-8

Cherry tomatoes                   10-12

Spring onions                         A handful and then some for garnish

Olive Oil                                   1 1/2 tbsp

Cumin seeds                           1/2 tsp

Ajwain                                       1/4 tsp

Cayenne pepper powder      1/2 – 1 tsp

Salt

Sour cream                               1 1/2 tbsp

Mayonnaise                              1 1/2 tbsp

Yellow mustard                       1/2 tsp

Onion powder                           1 tsp

Cheddar cheese, grated         3-4 tbsp

WHAT TO DO

  • Finely chop the onions, spring onions, beans, baby corn
  • Cut the cherry tomatoes into halves.
  • Heat some oil and add cumin seeds and ajwain
  • Add the onions and spring onions and sauté
  • Once the onions are translucent add the beans and baby corns
  • When the beans are half cooked, add the cherry tomatoes and mix well.
  • Add salt and cook covered on medium heat for around 10 minutes.
  • Open the lid regularly and sauté the vegetables.
  • Switch off the gas and set it aside.
  • In a small bowl, take the sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard and onion powder and mix well to combine.
  • Preheat the oven to 190C
  • Cut the pita breads into halves so that they resemble a semi circle.
  • Slowly pry open each bread half so as to be able to stuff it.
  • Apply the sour cream mix and then add the vegetables
  • Take care to ensure that the bread doesn’t break.
  • Once all the bread halves are stuffed, put them on a baking tray and spread the cheese on top.
  • Bake for 5 minutes or till the cheese melts.
  • Take it out, garnish with spring onion greens and serve warm.
  • Enjoy!

  

  
NOTES

  1. I wanted to have the pitas toasted and so I baked them for ten minutes. If you are doing the same, bake for 5 minutes and then add the grated cheese and bake for another 5 minutes.

 

This is my post for the Blogging Marathon hosted by Srivalli under the theme – Stuffed dishes. 
IMG_0187-7

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for other marathoners doing this BM. 

 

Stuffed & Baked Apples

   

This is a sinfully delightful way to eat apples. It’s rich and juicy and warm and cozy. Also, it’s apples and hence predominantly guilt free! 
 
The best part was I could get almost one apple along with some raisins and walnuts into the little one’s stomach. Makes it a favorite right away! Also, it’s a quick and easy desert to serve while having people over. The recipe is from here.

Serves 2

So here goes –

WHAT WE NEED

Apples                             2

Brown sugar                  3 tbsp

Butter                              1 tbsp

Walnuts, chopped       4 tbsp

Raisins                            4 tbsp

Cinnamon powder       1/2 tsp

Nutmeg powder            1/4 tsp

Ginger powder              1/2 tsp

Orange Juice                  4 tbsp

WHAT TO DO

  • Preheat the oven to 190C
  • Mix brown sugar, walnuts,raisins, cinnamon powder, nutmeg powder and ginger powder
  • Cut the butter into small pieces and add to this mixture and combine.
  • Cut off the top of the apple and scoop out the flesh with a small spoon.
  • Ensure that the walls and base of the apple are intact.
  • Stuff the sugar mixture into the apples and sprinkle the balance mixture on top.
  • Arrange the apples in a baking dish and pour the orange juice on and around the apples.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes till the apples are tender and the skin is loosened.
  • Pour the balance orange juice over the apples and serve warm, preferably with ice cream.
  • Enjoy!

     
NOTES

  1. Other options for stuffing are cooked rolled oats, other dried fruits, candied fruits or ginger, etc.
  2. If you are baking more than 3 apples then it is advisable to rotate the baking tray once after 15 minutes of baking.

 


This is part of the
Bake-a-thon 2015 


 

IMG_0187-7

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for other marathoners doing this BM.
 

 

Stuffed Spicy Snake Gourd

   

You won’t believe how pretty the snake gourds in Malaysia look. Compared to these, what I was used to in Bangalore seem like their distant anorexic cousin. Having tried various flavours and combinations with snake gourd, I figured I could stuff some of them in it and it would taste good. 

And it did. 
 

WHAT WE NEED

Snake gourd                                    2 large

Onion, finely chopped                 1

Tomato, finely chopped              1

Capsicum, finely chopped          1

Garlic cloves                                    2-3

Ginger                                                1″

Cumin seeds                                    1 tsp

Red chilly powder                           1 1/2 tsp

Turmeric powder                             1/2 tsp

Ajwain                                                 1/4 tsp

Chickpea flour / Besan                   3-4 tbsp

Grated coconut (optional)             2 tbsp

Oil

Salt
WHAT TO DO

  • Heat 2 tsp oil and add cumin seeds
  • Add finely chopped ginger and garlic.
  • Once the garlic starts browning, add the onion and sauté
  • After the onions become translucent, add the tomatoe and capsicum and sauté
  • Add turmeric powder, chilly powder and ajwain and mix well.
  • Once the tomatoe and capsicum are cooked, add the chickpea flour and salt and mix well to combine.
  • The flour needs to soak up some of the moisture and render the filling to come together.
  • Set aside to cool.
  • Cut each snake gourd to four cylindrical pieces and remove the seeds and fibre inside.
  • Stuff the snake gourd with the vegetable filling 
  • Heat some oil for shallow frying (3-4 tbsp) and once the oil is hot, place the stuffed snake gourd in the oil.
  • Cover and let it cook on medium heat for around 10 minutes.
  • Check every 3-4 minutes and turn the snake gourd so that it is well cooked on all sides.
  • Once cooked, garnish with grated coconut and serve.
  • Enjoy it as a starter or with hot rice and sambhar.

   

NOTES

  1. To cook faster, you can steam the snake gourd for 5-7 minutes before stuffing it.
  2. If the stuffing is in excess, it can be used as a filling for parathas or in puff pastry sheets to make curry puffs.
  3. Sometimes some part of the  stuffing can fall off the snake gourd, you can either take it out and refill it later or let it get fried and eat it crisp.
  4. It can either be served as is or can be cut further into smaller rings.

  

This is for the Blogging Marathon hosted by Srivalli under the theme – Stuffed dishes.

 
IMG_0187-7

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for other marathoners doing this BM.