Friday, October 09, 2015

Basil Mint Pesto with Almonds

Basil Mint Pesto with Almonds

The good months are almost over. My potted plants will start drying up soon. And since I do not have a sunny spot in my apartment where my potted plants can thrive, I will have to bid them adieu till warmer months. In the meantime I will be using the fresh herbs (like basil, mint) to make sauces and chutneys and drying others (like rosemary & oregano).

My potted plants did better this year.. I think it was because my Baba diligently watered the plants everyday! And plant food.. I added organic plant food once a month! It has been such a delight to pluck a handful of fragrant herbs whenever I wanted.  The basil has already started turning yellow, so it was high time I made a batch of pesto!
** Be sure to wash and dry the leaves before using.
** Use a clean dry airtight container for storing if you are not using it immediately.
** I have used almonds in this recipe since I am allergic to most nuts. Feel free to use pine nuts or walnuts.

  • Basil Leaves - 2 Cups, packed
  • Mint leaves - 1 Cup, packed
  • Almonds - 1/2 Cup, toasted
  • Parmesan Cheese - 3 tbsp, grated
  • Garlic - 2 fat cloves
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 1/2 Cup + 1 tsp
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

In a food processor, blitz the basil leaves, mint leaves, almonds and garlic while gradually drizzling the olive oil (except 1 tsp) till smooth. Add the grated parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. Give it one final pulse. Transfer it to an airtight container (I used a glass canning jar), top it off with the remaining 1 tsp olive oil and stick it in the fridge if you are not using it immediately. You can freeze it too.
Add the pesto to your pasta or smear it on your toast. Sprinkle chili flakes and up the heat factor. Use it as a marinade for your shrimps or add a spoonful to your morning eggs. Do whatever you want to with this handy jar of pesto. A little goes a long way.



Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My photo made it to Mason 2016 Calendar.


The Mayor & Vice Mayor of the City of Mason presenting me with a framed image of my photograph
Sometime in March, I came across a post on a FB post regarding a photo contest for Mason's 2016 calendar. After a not-so-quick look through my photos (which I have plenty, ha ha), I submitted  a favorite of mine and then forgot all about it till I received this email in June while I was in Kolkata..
Congratulations! Your photograph has been selected for the 2016 Mason Photo Calendar.
We will be in touch with you regarding the release of the printed calendar and would like to invite you to attend a City Council Meeting on Monday, September 14 at 7 p.m. at Mason Municipal Center to be recognized for your contribution.
Title: Pretty Shades of Winter
I was pleasantly surprised when I read the email. And happy. I shared the news only with  3 people - the husband, my friend and mentor (not only in photography) and my best friend. Then earlier this month, with my parents and a couple of friends I was talking to during the 6 yo's birthday party and it sort of slipped out.
The event got re-scheduled to yesterday (09/28/2015) and I was there with my family.
The winners of the photo contest
I received a framed image of my photograph, a 2016 Mason Calendar and a Mason Bicentennial edition Monopoly. But what touched me most was all the love! My family couldn't be prouder.. my 6 yo said - "Mamma, you must be famous now!". Hilarious, I know! Heartwarming too!
Now that I am growing older, I find it difficult sharing news that puts me in the spotlight. And when I shared that with a close friend of mine, she said something in the lines of -  Do not underplay your achievements... accept the praise that you deserve instead of being overwhelmed or embarrassed by it. I have been trying to follow what she said, but not too successfully. I was reluctant to share the photos of the event on Facebook but my Ma emotionally blackmailed me into putting up the photos on Facebook and congratulatory messages have been pouring in ever since. I am truly humbled by all the love!
Btw, I just realized that my blouse matches the photograph. Happy co-incidence!

Roasted Crunchy Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans

Roasted Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans: Crunchy snacks
This recipe has been lying in the draft section since the end of May. Our unexpected trip to Kolkata made me forget all about it. While reading through what I had typed in May, I realized exactly how susceptible to change life is. There I was making plans for long dreamy summer days while life had something else planned. The sudden loss of a dear one jolted us back to reality. But again, life is funny in so many ways. We were mourning the loss of my father-in-law yet we brought back some beautiful memories. The 6 year old (yeah he turned 6 last Sunday) bonded with his cousins all over again, I met with my family and friends, sampled all the street food and Kolkata style Biryani that I have been craving for and brought back half a suitcase full of food props.  
The husband came back after 3 weeks while the 6 yo and I flew back with my parents (their trip had already been planned few months back) after 5 weeks.
Anyways, coming back to the present - we love munching on this crunchy snack along with our evening cuppa of tea! Now that my parents are here, I bask in the luxury of being pampered with many cups of tea during the day! I just make my morning cup as they wake up after I do. I know that these days are short-lived (they leave in a month's time) but I am going to make the most of it while I can!

29th May 2015:
Summer vacations are on! Days will be filled with outdoor play, pool-time and more play! Which means I have a growing boy who's hungry every hour or so! Hence I need to have a constant supply of snacks! Few months back I had bought a box of almond samplers from Wholefoods. I saved the box, and filled each compartment with nuts and dates. I leave that out along with a big bottle of water. I cut up some apples in the morning and put it in a Ziploc bag (so that it stays fresh) along with a bag of berries (he loves blueberries and strawberries) and have it ready in the fridge. Bananas, cheese-sticks and cereal bars are great on-the-go snack ideas. But every now and then the 5.5 year old wants something new! 
As I prefer giving him more fresh fruits, nuts and homemade stuff than store-bought and processed, I am always looking for ideas. These are the times when the instant (the one-minute/two-minutes) cake or cookies in a mug come super handy! 
An active boy also needs a Mommy who can keep up! And with all the activities going on, I need my snack too! Many a times I find it easier to grab a cookie when I cannot find my bag of almonds and dates. Since I am allergic to most nuts, I can hardly ever find a suitable cereal bar! Then I found this recipe!

Roasted Crunchy Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans

  • Chickpeas/Garbanzo beans - 2 Cups, cooked (you can use canned as well)
  • Oil - 2 tbsp (I used canola oil)
  • Cumin Powder - 1 tsp
  • Smoked Paprika - 1/2 tsp (Use chili powder or cayenne pepper if you prefer heat)
  • Chaat Masala - 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.
In a bowl toss the cooked chickpeas along with oil, salt and the spices. Feel free to use spices of your own choice. In a cookie sheet spread out the spice & oil coated garbanzo bean/chickpeas and bake until crisp for about 30 to 40 minutes or so. at the half way mark give the tray a shake. Check once after 30 minutes and then add on oven time accordingly but not more than few minutes at a time.
Cool down the beans completely and store in an airtight container.

Serve at room temperature with a squeeze of lime if you prefer.

Here's another version from my friend's blog - Chana Jor Garam


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Blueberry Banana Frozen Yogurt


It has blueberries, banana, yogurt and a touch of honey... the almost 6 yo has been eating this as a snack and dessert, and for once I do not have to tell him that 2 scoops of Blueberry Banana Fro-Yo a day is bad for you... and I was so in LOVE with the color, I went on clicking! Crazy, I know!

The almost 6 yo loved it, the husband loved it and so did the 6 yo's mother. My parents liked it too!

Similar recipes to try out:
Blueberry Buttermilk Sorbet
Strawberry FroYo - No churn Frozen Yogurt

Ingredients: (Yield - 7 or 8 scoops)
  • Banana - 1 overripe
  • Blueberry - 1 Cup
  • Honey - 1 tbsp. (use more if you prefer it sweeter)
  • Lemon zest - 3/4 tsp
  • Greek Yogurt/hung Curd - 1 Cup
Put everything in a mixer or food processor and blitz away till smooth. If you prefer you can puree the blueberries first and then run it through a mesh strainer - to catch the pieces of blueberry skin. I don't.
Transfer to a metal pan, cover tightly with a cling wrap. Freeze for at least 4-5 hours before serving. I left it in the freezer overnight. Serve in a bowl or on cones.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Oats & Rava Uttapam - Lunchbox ideas

Another easy lunchbox recipe good for breakfast, brunch or those lazy nights when you don't feel like cooking up a storm! Last Tuesday was an extremely tiring and long day. And I was drawing a blank what to make for dinner that night or  pack in the 6 yo's lunch-box the next day. I cannot remember how or what made me think of uttapams but it was a good thing that I did!
Since my Baba is diabetic, I switched out half of semolina with half oats which was leftover from my Oil-free/Butterless Oatmeal Muffins. If you want, you can use just oats flour or semolina.

My recipe is loosely based on Tarla Dalal's.

Ingredients: Yield - about 7 or 8 medium sized ones
  • Oats flour -1/2 cup
  • Semolina - 1/2 cup
  • Yogurt - 1 cup
  • Grated ginger - 1 tbsp
  • Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Water - about half cup, batter should of pouring consistency (add little more if required)
  • Salt to taste
  • Onions - 1/2 cup, finely chopped
  • Green bell pepper - 1/3 cup, finely chopped
  • Carrots - 1/2 Cup, shredded
  • Cilantro - 1 tbsp, packed, finely chopped
  • Green chilies - 1 (or more), minced
  • Enough oil to fry
Mix oat flour, semolina, yogurt, grated ginger and salt. Let it ferment for 1 hour. Mix in the veggies along with the cumin seeds. Add water by the spoonful till you get the right consistency. Give it a gentle whisk.
Heat a pan on medium-high heat and coat it with oil. Pour ladle-full of batter (I used a 1/4 cup measure) and using the back of a spoon spread it out. Reduce the flame and fry till the sides start setting. Using a spatula carefully flip it. If the batter is undercooked, the uttapam will break.
Fry the other side for couple more minutes and transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter.
Serve hot with your choice of condiment.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Oatmeal Banana Raspberry Chocolate Chip Muffins - Oil-free/Butter-less

Oatmeal Banana Raspberry Chocolate Chip Muffins - Oil-free/Butter-less

Week 2 of school. We are all slowly settling down. Buses are picking up and dropping off more on schedule. Lunch & snack boxes are coming back mostly empty. After school activities, play time & lesson time are becoming more and more smooth with each passing day. Sleep time is getting easier too. First few days the almost 6 year old would be too wired to fall asleep at night despite being tired. But that has gotten better too!

And his lunch-box & snack-box have become my new inspirations to try out new recipes:

Scrambled Egg Muffins
Blender Chocolate Chip Banana Oatmeal Muffins
Eggless Whole wheat Almond Meal Cookies
Ingredients: (Yield 12)
  • Oatmeal Flour - 2 Cups (Grind about 2 1/2 Cups of rolled oats or quick cooking oats in the mixture till you get a fine powder. There might be some leftovers)
  • Brown Sugar - 1/3 Cup, tightly packed
  • Baking Powder - 1 tsp
  • Baking Soda - 1/2 tsp
  • Salt - 1/4 tsp
  • Bananas - 3, overripe
  • Raspberries - 1 Cup, fresh and slightly smooshed. Frozen can be used as well.
  • Eggs - 1 large, at room temperature
  • Vanilla Extract - 1 tsp
  • Dark Chocolate Chips - 3 tbsp
Oatmeal Banana Raspberry Chocolate Chip Muffins - Oil-free/Butter-less

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners and keep aside.
In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients - oat flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt.
In another large bowl, mash the bananas first. Then cream together the smashed bananas, brown sugar, egg, vanilla extract till the mixture is smooth. Add the dry ingredients to it slowly and mix till just combined. Do not overmix. Fold in the raspberries and the chocolate chips gently. Pour batter into the muffin tin. Bake for 16 -18 minutes or till done. Insert a toothpick in the middle of a muffin, if it comes out clean, then your muffins are done.
In an effort to make the muffins look pretty, I stuck half a raspberry on top of each once I had poured the batter in!
Recipe roughly adapted from - Ambitious Kitchen

Friday, August 21, 2015

Scrambled Egg Muffins - Lunchbox ideas

Scrambled Egg Muffins - Lunchbox ideas

No banter... just a recipe! Great for the lunchbox or breakfast/brunch!

Ingredients: (Yield about 8)
  • Eggs - 6 large, at room temperature
  • Ham - 1/2 Cup (I used deli meat cut into small cubes, you can use shredded chicken, cooked bacon or cooked sausage bit or skip altogether)
  • Onions - 1/2 Cup, finely chopped
  • Carrots - 3/4 Cup, shredded
  • Green Bell Pepper - 1/2 Cup, chopped
  • Cilantro - 1 packed tbsp, finely chopped
  • Salt and Pepper - to taste
  • Crushed red pepper - to taste (optional)
  • Oil - 2 tsp
Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a muffin tin and set aside. Be sure to grease every cup that you are going to use nicely, or the muffins will stick.

Heat oil in a skillet and fry the onions and bell pepper till the onions turn translucent. Throw in the chopped ham, carrots, cilantro and season with salt and pepper and crushed pepper (if using). I skipped the salt as the ham was salted plus there would be salt in the eggs.
Cook for few minutes and keep aside.

In a large measuring cup, whisk 6 eggs along with salt and pepper. You can do it in a bowl, but I find it easier to pour directly into the muffin tin.

Add a tablespoonful of the ham-veggie mix to each of the cups. There will be some left over. I will just toss the leftover with some cooked pasta and it will become lunch or dinner the next day. Pour the whisked egg into each cup till the 2/3rd mark. Bake at 375 F for 15-17 minutes. If you prefer, you can sprinkle some shredded cheese on top.  Also, you can use any vegetables or corn you want to!

Serve warm or at room temperature. You can refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days in an airtight container.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Blender Chocolate Chip Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Blender Chocolate Chip Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Easy as a breeze.. wholesome & healthy, these Banana Oatmeal Muffins were the perfect treats to whip up on a lazy afternoon while waiting for my almost 6 yo to come back from school! I had given him a banana and yogurt last three days as an afterschool snack which he ate grudgingly!
This morning he asked me if today was special as it was his first Monday as a First Grader. Of course, I said! I mentally made a note to pick up a chocolate chip muffin that he loves from Wholefoods later that day to celebrate his "special Monday". As I was about to pick up the muffin, the banana muffins caught my eye which reminded me of the two overripe bananas sitting not-so-pretty on my counter. So I came home without the muffin and with the determination to make a newer version of Banana Muffin.. I have made so many!
Monday mornings are usually extra tiring as the husband leaves extra extra early for work (4 am today), and however hard I try, I can never be in bed before 11 on Sunday nights.. there's always that one last thing that needs to be done before the week starts! So today by the time I was done with all the morning errands and chores and lunch was done, all I wanted to do was curl up on my bed and read a book or nap! It took each ounce of my energy to haul myself up from the sofa and make these deliciously moist muffins which are oil-free, butter-less and sugar free as well!
This recipe from Well Plated by Erin came to the rescue. I just halved the recipe.

Blender Chocolate Chip Banana Oatmeal Muffins

  • Oatmeal - 1 Cup (quick cooking or old fashioned)
  • Overripe Banana - 1 large
  • Greek Yogurt - 1/2 Cup
  • Eggs - 1, at room temperature
  • Honey - 1 tbsp (the banana added most of the sweetness)
  • Baking Powder - 3/4 tsp
  • Baking Soda - 1/4 tsp
  • Salt - a pinch
  • Vanilla Extract - 1/2 tsp
  • Chocolate chips - 2 or 3 tbsp (I added chocolate chips to 4 muffins, and chopped walnut to the remaining 2, you can add in your choice of nuts or dried fruits or even blueberries).
Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a muffin tin  or line with cupcake liners and keep aside. These muffins tend to stick to the liners so go ahead and grease the liners a little.
Grind the oats to a fine powder (in the blender) and then add everything to the blender except the chocolate chips & nuts and blitz away to glory till you get a smooth batter. Scrape and stir as required. Let the batter rest for 5 minutes. Then gently fold in the mix-ins. 
Divide the batter equally.
Bake for about 15 minutes or till the muffins are done - a toothpick when inserted in the middle should come out clean.
Let the muffins cool down a bit in the pan itself and then transfer to the wire rack to let it cool down before serving. These should stay fresh in an airtight container for 3 days.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Eggless Whole wheat Almond Meal Cookies

1st Day at First Grade

School reopens tomorrow! The almost 6 year old will be transitioning from Kindergarten to 1st Grade which means he will gone for almost 8 hours!  Which is a first! He seems ready, but his Ma definitely is not! I have mopped around a little, whined to the husband a little (and got royally teased by him - totally uncool!) and then made a list of lunches and snacks to send to school! I prefer sending lunch and snacks from home but he will definitely get to buy lunch at the cafeteria a couple of times a month with his buddies!

Tomorrow it is going to be a cold pasta, baby carrots and these Baked Chicken Nuggets for lunch.

For snacks: (his teacher asked the parents to send in two snacks)

#1. One Whole Wheat Almond Meal cookies & a String Cheese (for the early morning snack)
#2. Grapes & Cereal Bar for later

Eggless Whole wheat Almond Meal Cookies

Ingredients: (Yield - 10 large-ish or 20 smaller ones)
  • Whole wheat flour - 1 Cup
  • Almond meal - 1/2 Cup (see below)
  • Granulated Sugar - 1/3 Cup
  • Butter - 1/2 Cup or 1 stick (at room temperature, unsalted)
  • Green Cardamom Powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Salt - a fat pinch
  • Milk - 2 tbsp (for kneading, I used almond milk)
  • Almonds for garnish (optional)
Eggless Whole wheat Almond Meal Cookies

To make the Almond Meal at home, you have to pulse whole almonds in your food processor till it starts resembling whole wheat flour. Do not over-grind it. For 1 Cup of Almond Meal, you will need about 1/4 pound of whole almonds. Sift the almond meal just to make sure that there are no bigger chunks.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, almond meal, green cardamom powder, salt and sugar. Add the softened butter and knead till you get a smooth dough. Pinch out equal sized balls from the dough. Shape them by rolling between your palms and then flattening them gently.
I flattened them using the back of my turner and then used a flower shaped cookie cutter to give it a little pizzazz.
Garnish with whole or finely chopped almond. Transfer to parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 350 F or till the edges start turning golden brown. Baking time will vary, so keep an eye after the 10 minutes mark.

Once baked, transfer the cookies to a wire rack using a spatula/turner. On cooling, store them in an airtight container. These will stay fresh for 4 days.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

3 Ingredients Nutella Brownie Cupcakes or Brownie Bites

3 Ingredients Nutella Brownie Cupcakes or Brownie Bites
Chewy irresistible brownie made with just THREE ingredients and in less than 40 minutes! Yes please!
While the brownies were baking the almost 6 year old came scurrying to the kitchen to check on the progress and said.. "..these smell so good, I cannot resist them!" He could hardly wait for the cuppies to cool down!
3 Ingredients Nutella Brownie Cupcakes or Brownie Bites

Ingredients: (Yield - about 7 or 8 Cupcakes or 9 chewy brownie squares, more if cutting into bite-sized pieces)
  • Nutella - 1 1/4 Cup (13oz)
  • Eggs - 2 large, at room temperature
  • Flour - 1/2 Cup
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 8x8 glass pan (or muffin tin) with parchment paper. It is just easier to take the brownie out of the pan once baked. Be sure to grease the pan before placing the parchment paper and then grease the parchment paper as well.
Scrape out the Nutella from the bottle with a spatula and dump all of it into a medium sized bowl. Crack the eggs one by one directly into the bowl (unless you are paranoid that there might be a bad egg... in that case, crack the eggs open in a separate bowl first). Add the flour and mix with all your might till you get a smooth  shiny batter. The batter will be thick. Pour into the parchment paper lined pan (I used a 8x8 for brownie bites) or lined muffin tin. Bake at 350 F for about 30 minutes if baking in the pan or 15 minutes if baking in the muffin tin. Baking time will vary!
Cuppies: Let the cuppies cool down a little before transferring to a cooling rack.
Squares or bites: Let the brownie cool down a bit. Hold the edges of the parchment paper and transfer the brownie to the cooling rack while still in the parchment paper. I find it easier to cut if I refrigerate the brownie for at least 30 minutes.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Assam 1860 - 'Tea as it should be'

While I was in Kolkata this time I received a message on my blog's Facebook page from James Warren Tea Ltd asking me if I would be interested in sampling their newest launch Assam1860. Now how can an ardent tea lover turn down such an offer! Unfortunately I did not get a chance to open the beautiful package that came in the mail 2 days later during my stay at Kolkata.

Today my made my first cup of Assam 1860...
It was a journey of the senses from the very get-go. From the striking packaging to the beautifully hand stitched tea bags to the taste - it was pure pleasure! One sniff of the delightful aroma and a sip later, I was a fan of this black tea (CTC) with distinctive full-bodied flavors. If I had tasted it while I was in Kolkata I would have definitely brought back more with me. The beautiful packaging and pretty hand-stitched tea bags would have made a lovely gift!
I liked my cuppa with milk (I don't add sugar to my tea, but feel free to add a spoonful or two)! If you don't mind a strong brew, you may like it without milk.  Next I am going to use the loose CTC which came in a re-sealable package (80 gms) and spice it up with some crushed elaichi (green cardamom). I might whip up some iced tea as well! Then mop around a little when I have used up all of the 80 gms of loose CTC and all of the 10 tea bags while asking friends and family coming to the US to bring back some Assam1860 for me!
For ordering and more information visit - They ship all over India.
Their story:
We’ve been growing tea for more than 150 years. That’s right, 150 years of experience and expertise that goes into making a cup of tea with pedigree. And it tastes delicious.
Assam 1860 is a black tea that celebrates tea itself. It is made only from leaves plucked in the picturesque Thowra Estate, a chai bagan set up in 1860. We ensure that the phrase ‘garden fresh’ lives up to its every promise.
The leaves are plucked, processed and packed in the estate itself, ensuring quality and freshness that is unparalleled. So wherever you are, you might as well be drinking your cup of Assam 1860 on the verdant verandah of the Thowra Bungalow, overlooking graceful rolling greens on our lush terraces.
(This is not a paid review)


Monday, August 03, 2015

Moist Double Chocolate Chip Muffins

I was looking for a recipe for moist Double Chocolate Chip Muffins when I stumbled upon this gem of a recipe. One quick look at the ingredients and I was sold! Bookmarked it, made a mental note of the ingredients and went about my daily chores. We were going on a road trip on the following Friday to Holland, Michigan to be a part of their tulip festival. And I was going to bake this Strawberry Quick Bread with Lemon Glaze and these chocolate chip muffins along with us to munch on!

I was done packing way ahead of time. Bags were packed, snacks were packed, fridge stocked with the perishables and it was just Tuesday and we weren't leaving until the following Friday! I was gloating, well just a wee bit! With packing, cleaning (I like to leave my home in a spic and span condition as I absolutely dislike coming back from a vacation to a messy apartment) and Strawberry Quick Bread with Lemon Glaze done, I started out to make the Moist Double Chocolate Chip Muffins Thursday late afternoon. But as luck would have it, the page I wanted to follow the recipe from just refused to open. Frustrated, I started looking for other recipes, but I could not find anything that I loved! That is when I found Brighteyed Baker's Facebook page and messaged her! Alexandra (of Brighteyed Baker) not only did message back saying that it was a server issue that will get fixed within a couple of hours, she was kind enough to send me a screen shot of her recipe once her site was up!
Oh, I did I tell you.. I totally fell in love with that speckled egg! So much so that it lay untouched in my fridge for good two months. Then one day the husband threw it away (cue heartbreak!!).

Ingredients: (yield about 12)
  • All Purpose Flour - 2 Cups + 1 tbsp (scant)
  • Cocoa Powder - 1 Cup
  • Baking Powder - 2 1/2 tsp
  • Baking Soda - 1/2 tsp
  • Salt - 1 tsp
  • Instant Coffee granules - 1/4 tsp (optional)
  • Granulated Sugar - 1 1/4 Cups
  • Oil - 1/2 Cup (I used Canola)
  • Eggs - 2 whole + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • Sour Cream - 1 1/2 Cups
  • Vanilla Extract - 1 tbsp
  • Chocolate Chips - 2/3 Cups + 2 tbs to sprinkle on top of the muffins
  • Baking Chocolate Bar - Chopped into small chunks

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a standard muffin tin with cupcake liners.
In a largish bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, instant coffee granules and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs on medium speed while adding cupful of sugar till light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl using a rubber spatula as and when required. Add the oil and beat till it is all mixed together. Now beat in the sour cream and vanilla extract till everything is mixed together nicely.
Slowly add the dry ingredients and fold in gently. Be careful not to overbeat. Once incorporated, gently fold in the chocolate chips and chunks.

Spoon in dollops of batter into the prepped muffin tin. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips on top of the batter and press down lightly.
Bake for 10 minutes at 375 F and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 F and bake for another 6 to 8 minutes. (Baking time may vary slightly - start checking after 15 minutes). Insert a toothpick in the middle of a muffin - if it comes out clean, the muffins are done. Let the muffins cool a little in the muffin tin before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
The muffins will stay fresh in an airtight container for 3 days, at least and for 7 days if refrigerated.

Original recipe here!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Vegetable Chop: Bangali'r Cha'r saathey Ta

Bengali's chop is very different from the rest of world's chop. While chop essentially means a cut of meat to the rest of the world, to us it is a deep fried ball of all things yum which goes perfectly with our late afternoon or evening cup of tea, especially during the rain-soaked monsoon months or chilly winter months.
It is amazing how a quick shower can refresh everything around you. Nature is at its vibrant best during the monsoon months. And it is just as amazing how just a cup of tea along with your cookie/biscuit/snack makes the verdant evenings all the more perfect.
When I was growing up, Moori (puffed rice) along Telebhaja (any thing deep-fried) bought from the Telebhaja shop down the street would be a popular thing to serve at least couple of days a week with the evening tea. Now that we are more health conscious, we tend to shy away from deep fried stuff and only indulge once in a while. 
How I have made these veggie chops may not be the traditional way of making it, but it sure is easy and works for us. I usually use whatever vegetables I have on hand. Cauliflower can be used in place of potatoes and it adds a wonderful taste and crunch as well. Very soon I will try out the baked version, till then we will give in to these deep fried rare treats!

  • Potato - 1 big, boiled and mashed (I used russet potato and nuked it in the microwave for 5 minutes in its jacket)
  • Onion - 1 red, medium sized, finely chopped
  • Green Bell Pepper - 1, small, finely chopped
  • Carrot & Peas - 1 1/2 Cups (I used frozen that I steamed for 5 minutes in the microwave. and squeezed out excess water. You can use your choice of veggies. 
  • Cilantro - 1/2 Cup, finely chopped
  • Garlic - 2 fat cloves, minced
  • Ginger - 1 tsp, grated
  • Green Chili - 2 or more (depending on your heat preference), finely minced. 
  • Oil - 1 tbsp for cooking + enough for deep frying
  • Salt to taste
  • Garam Masala - 1 tsp, powdered (1 inch cinnamon stick, 3 cloves, 3 green cardamoms)
  • Cumin Powder - 3/4 tsp
  • Coriander powder - 3/4 tsp
  • Chat Masala - 2 tsp
  • Corn flour - 3 tbsp
  • Enough water to make a slightly runny (pouring consistency paste) of cornflour
  • Bread crumb - 4 tbsp + 3/4 Cup (for dredging)
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a heavy bottomed pan or kadai and fry the onions, minced garlic, grated ginger and bell pepper till the onions turn translucent. Add remaining veggies and fry till there is no moisture remaining. Sprinkle the masalas (Garam Masala, Cumin Powder, Coriander Powder, Chat Masala) along with the salt and minced green chilies. Cook for a few minutes and then fold in the mashed potatoes. Fry, stirring constantly and using your wooden spoon to mash the peas a little. Once everything comes together, add the finely chopped cilantro and 4 tbsp of bread crumbs and mix well. Take the mixture off the heat and let it cool. 
While the mixture is cooling, make a paste of cornflour and water. The consistency should be such it forms a layer when the veggie balls are dunked in it. This will help the bread crumbs to stick to it. 
Make equal sized balls with the veggie mix and shape it into your desired shape. I like to flatten mine a little using the palms of my hand. Dunk the balls in the cornflour mix and dredge each in the bread crumbs. I used Italian bread crumbs which adds a little extra flavor. Whenever I am using plain bread crumbs, I like to season it with little salt and freshly crushed black pepper. 
Arrange on a plate or tray and let them hang out in the fridge till you are ready to fry them. 
Now heat enough oil in a wok or deep bottomed pan to deep fry the balls.

I am sending this recipe to Kolkata Food Bloggers Monsoon event 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Uchchhe Begun Sobji: Bittergourd & Eggplant Stir-fry

Recipe #3: Ma Baba's home cooking. 

Bengali cuisine is perhaps the only Indian cuisine that practices the multi-course meal tradition. First comes the bitter or 'teto' which is a palate cleanser and it will most definitely end on a sweet note. However, nowadays the more health conscious bongs shy away from 'sesh paatey mishti' (to end the meal with something sweet) and settle with homemade yogurt with a pinch of sugar and salt. Many will argue that it is nothing less than 'doodh er saadh ghol ey metano' - a harsh compromise! 
Since my Baba is diabetic, a lot of things that is on the menu at my parents' place will not have potatoes. I have included potatoes in this as I just love aloo! 

  • Bitter Gourd - 1 Cup, thinly sliced (also known as Karela/Bitter Melon)
  • Potato - 1/2 Cup, cut into small cubes
  • Eggplant or Brinjal - 1 Cup, cut into slightly bigger cubes than the potatoes
  • Paanch Phoron - 3/4 tsp (See Notes)
  • Green Chili - 1, slit
  • Mustard Oil - 1 tbsp 
  • Salt to taste
  • Couple of pinches of turmeric

Heat the mustard oil in a deep bottomed non-stick frying pan. Temper it with the Paanch Phoron and slit green chili. Once the Paanch Phoron starts spluttering, add the sliced bitter gourd and cubed potatoes. Fry for few minutes till the potatoes start turning slightly golden brown. Now add the eggplant pieces. Cook, stirring often till the eggplant pieces start to soften. Add a little water along with salt and turmeric. Cover and cook till done.


Notes: A special mix of 5 spices that we Bengalis call 'Paanch Phoron' is used in this dish for tempering. Typically, Paanch Phoron will include Fenugreek Seeds (Methi), Nigella Seeds (Kalo Jeera), Fennel Seeds (Mouri), Cumin Seeds (Jeera) and Wild Celery Seeds (Radhuni) in equal parts. 'Radhuni' is rarely available outside West Bengal, so celery seeds or black mustard seeds are also used as the 5th spice. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bhaja Moong Dal

Recipe #2: Ma Baba's home cooking

This is a step that I would always skip... roasting my petite yellow lentils! But trust me, it is totally worth it. Roasting prior to boiling the lentils add a depth of flavor and aroma! 
  • Petite Yellow Lentil or Moong Dal - 1/2 Cup
  • Mustard Oil - 1 tsp
  • Dry Red Chili - 1
  • Bay leaf - 1 big or 2 small
  • Cumin Seeds - 3/4 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • A pinch or two of turmeric
  • Enough water to pressure cook the Daal
Dry roast the lentils on low heat till the aroma of the lightly toasted lentils hit you. Wash thoroughly. In a pressure cooker, cook the daal along with salt and turmeric to your desired level of mushiness. Some like to see the little grains, while I like it totally mashed. Keep aside. 
Heat 1 tsp of mustard oil in a deep bottom pan and temper it with cumin seeds, dry red chili and bay leaves. Once the cumin seeds start doing their little dance, add the cooked daal to it. Stir well. Bring it to a boil and take it off the heat.

Serve with steaming white rice. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Stir-fried Okra - Dhyarosh er sobji

Recipe #1: Ma Baba's home cooking

Now that my parents are here, I will be making and sharing a lot of recipes that is a day to day staple in my parents' house. Since my father is diabetic (and on medication), his diet mostly dictates the menu but my Ma will sneak in a favorite or two of hers. This Okra stir fry or simply Dhyarosh er sobji is one of my father's favorite veggie recipe to eat with roti. You can totally omit the onions and make a 'pure veg' version as well. I love the version that has potatoes as well!

  • 1/2 tbsp mustard oil
  • 3/4 tsp paanch phoron
  • Green chili, slit
  • 1 small onion sliced
  • 1 small tomato chopped
  • 4 cups okra, washed well and cut at a diagonal
  • Water - 1 to 1/2 cups, just enough to cover the okra
  • Salt to taste
  • a pinch of turmeric
Heat mustard oil in a pan on medium high heat, and temper with the five-spice mix or Panch Phoron (see notes). Once the seeds start spluttering, add the sliced onions and slit green chili. Fry till the onions caramelize. Now add the chopped tomatoes and cook till they disintegrate. Throw in the okra and fry till they turn into a darker green. Add salt and turmeric and toss to coat. Cook for a couple of minutes and add enough water to just cover the okra pieces. Cover and cook on low flame till the okra softens. 

Serve with Roti or Rice. 

Notes: A special mix of 5 spices that we Bengalis call 'Paanch Phoron' is used in this dish for tempering. Typically, Paanch Phoron will include Fenugreek Seeds (Methi), Nigella Seeds (Kalo Jeera), Fennel Seeds (Mouri), Cumin Seeds (Jeera) and Wild Celery Seeds (Radhuni) in equal parts. 'Radhuni' is rarely available outside West Bengal, so celery seeds or black mustard seeds are also used as the 5th spice. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Paranthe Wali Gali presented by Durbari, Swissotel

To most, just like Paranthe Wali Gali, Durbari needs no introduction. For the uninitiated, Paranthe Wali Gali is the ongoing festival at Durbari (Indian specialty restaurant of Swissotel, Kolkata) which celebrates the parathas and spirit of the famous Paranthe Wali Gali of Old Delhi (Chandni Chowk area) which roughly translates into a lane dedicated to selling Indian fried Flat Bread or everyone's favorite Paranthe/Paratha/Porota. 

The festival is going on from the 20th of June 2015 till the 28th of June 2015, regular restaurant hours at the City Center 2 location. 
Each beautiful presented platter can be easily shared by 2 people, if you are planning to try out just one flavor (not recommended) or by 4 people if planning to try out more than one flavor (highly recommended).
Prices range from Rs 325 to Rs 425, depending on the flavor. There are 12 vegetarian options and 4 non-vegetarian options (yes, I counted)
Address: Swissotel,City Centre New Town, Action Area 2 D, Plot No.11/5, Action Area IID, Newtown, Kolkata, West Bengal 700052

Paranthe Wali Gali presented by Durbari, Swissotel

Armed with a chilled glass of Sweet Lime Soda and the appetite already whetted by an assortment of papads and refreshing dips (the burnt garlic dip was highly recommended) we embarked on the journey to sample a slice of  Paranthe Wali Gali right in the heart of Kolkata.

The menu boasts of an enviable selection of Parathas (Indian fried Flat Bread) with flavors influenced by different cuisines of India. All the parathas are served with Aloo Bhaji, Pickle, Curd and Laccha onion. The Malabari paratha is served with a side vegetable stew.

Malabari Paratha with a side of Vegetable Stew - this one was the star, hands down! The flaky paratha with a subtle hint of coconut paired with the vegetable stew cooked in coconut milk blew everyone's mind! It was so good that even KFB team member, Amrita who is not particularly fond of coconut, was floored.

Chicken Tikka and Cheese Paratha
served with a side of cooling yogurt and a spicy aloo bhaji. This spicy flat bread is a meal in itself and we joked about and agreed that it is the perfect paratha to go with a chilled glass of beer on a rain - soaked evening.

Warqi Paratha
- This is a Lucknowi specialty. The in-house chef takes great care to painstakingly create this soft and flaky layered masterpiece He also added the dough has to be hand kneaded. These would go perfectly with a side of kebabs. 

Soya Paratha - Don't be fooled by the minced soya filling - it can totally give its non-vegetarian counterparts a run for their money. 

Mughlai Paratha
- How can one have a Paratha Festival and not feature this Kolkata specialty. While this needs no introduction, it is needless to say that the flavors capture the essence of this very favorite Kolkata street food.

The parathas were very filling with hardly any trace of oil. I was full after the third taste and could barely manage to tuck in the last one. But our hosts insisted they we try out their "Goodbye Mango" buffet spread as well. When we politely refused, they convinced us to try out their desserts at least! Now, how could we say no! Chef Sanjay, their in-house pastry chef came over personally to have a chat with us. The mango phirni definitely deserves a special mention.

Since this was my first and perhaps the last time in many months that I get to visit Durbari (I fly back to the US in a couple of weeks), they specially treated me to their one-of-a-kind specialties - Daal Durbari & Paan (Betel Leaf) Ice-cream topped with Gulkand. Both tasted out of this world Their kind and thoughtful gesture shall be treasured forever!

We talked about upcoming events and Chef Sanjay, very enthusiastically told out about the new ice-cream flavors he was experimenting on! Team KFB spent a splendid afternoon amidst fun discussions and lip-smacking paranthes and desserts, but most importantly in the amazing company of gracious hosts Enakshi and Ashish and their very jovial pastry chef, Chef Sanjay.

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

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