December 31, 2009

Super Moist Spiced Chocolate and Beetroot Mini Muffins

Good things come in small packages!

That is how I feel about the year that just went by. It was one of those years when nothing "big" happened. But, all the same, it will be remembered as the year with a lot of "small" events, the sumtotal of which is bigger than any "big" event. It has been a year well spent, surrounded by friends and family right from the word go. We started the year with a long drive and will be ending it with yet another. There were several memorable trips in 2009. Karnal, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Shekhawati, Kasauli, Allahabad and Varanasi. I also made one trip to Chennai in the middle of summer, while S went to Hyderebad at the same time. We traveled to Mumbai to attend the 5th birthday of my niece. We'll end the year with a drive to Mussoorie and ring in the new year in the company of our closest friends. In 2009, my parents visited us twice and my brother also made two trips. We've hosted the maximum number of parties/informal get togethers in 2009. We hosted the karaoke show on weekends, something we both love doing. I got my first payment from Foodbuzz and will soon receive my very first payment from Adsense. It will be remembered as the year in which I closed my housing loan entirely. It will also be the year in which I walked on hot burning coals for the very first time. The year in which I hit 500 posts on this blog.

Little drops of water

Little grains of sand

Make the mighty ocean

And the pleasant land

This is very true and has been my motto all along. And something tells me that t
hat must have been the inspiration behind the invention of the mini muffin pan. I end this year with these little beauties. Perfect for a little burst of happiness on an otherwise dull day.

1 1/2 cups Flour

1/3 cup Cocoa Powder

3 tsp Baking Powder

1 cup Sugar

a Pinch Salt

1/2 cup Oil

2 Eggs

1 cup Milk

1 cup Grated Beetroot

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Allspice

Icing Sugar to decorate

Sift all the dry ingredients for the muffins together into a food processor jar with the dough blade. Pour in all the liquid ingredients and run the processor for 2 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Prepare the mini muffin pans by lining them with paper muffin cases or spraying them with baking spray.

Stir the grated beetroot into the batter and pour into the prepared muffin cases. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Dust with icing sugar.

I hope that all of you had a good 2009. And I hope that you have chosen to dwell on the good more than on the not so good. Life is what we make it and memories are almost always what we choose to remember. Let us remember all the good that 2009 brought us, all the big and small pieces of happiness. And let us wish that 2010 turns out to be a better year. In every way.

Here's to lots of good health and happiness. May you be surrounded by friends, family and everyone and everything you hold dear. That is my New Year Wish for you and yours. Happy New Year 2010!

December 30, 2009

Macaroni with Tomato-Ricotta Cheese Sauce

When my parents spent a month with us, I realized that I barely cooked. I seemed to cook lunch for S and myself, but Amma took care of almost everything else. One weekend, I decided to drag my lazy self into the kitchen and cook a meal. I wasn't donning the chef's hat yet, so I wanted to be out of the kitchen as soon as possible. So, pasta it was. I got a lot of appreciation for a lunch that involved emptying different cartons/bottles from the refrigerator. Now, who can complain?

2 cups Macaroni, prepared as per the instructions on the pack.
1 cup Pizza Sauce (I used American Garden)
3/4 cup Ricotta Cheese
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Garlic Paste
1 tsp Parsley
1 tsp Basil
1 tsp Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat the oil. Add the garlic paste and fry for a minute. Add the pizza sauce, parsley, basil and oregao and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the salt and cook for a minute. Crumble the ricotta cheese into the sauce and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Season with pepper and pour the sauce over the macaroni.

Enjoy this with some Garlic Bread or Garlic Toast. And wait for the compliments to come pouring in.

December 29, 2009

Palak Methi Masoor Dal

Winter! I absolutely love this time of the year. Probably not as much for the festive season as for the array of winter vegetables that I see each time I visit the markets. I find fruit and vegetable shops most visually appealing at this time. Summer can be quite depressing as you only mostly see varying shades of green and not the red, yellow, orange, purple and green that you see in winter.

I buy fenugreek leaves and fresh spinach every week and use them in several ways. Some conventional, some very unconventional. One evening, I was pressed for time as I got home almost an hour later than usual and I made this dal to go with rotis. Simple as it was, we were licking our fingers at the end of the meal.

1/2 cup Masoor Dal, pressure cooked with 1.5 cups of water

1/2 cup Fenugreek leaves, chopped

1/2 cup Spinach leaves, chopped

1 tbsp Ghee/Oil

1 Red Chilli

1 tsp Green Chilli Paste

1 tsp Ginger-Garlic Paste

1 tsp Cumin Seeds

1 tsp Asafoetida

1 Onion, finely chopped

1 tsp Turmeric

1/2 tsp Chilli Powder

Salt to taste

Heat the ghee/oil in a vessel. Add the cumin seeds and asafoetida. When the cumin crackles, add the red chilli, onion, ginger-garlic paste, green chilli paste, turmeric, chilli powder and salt. Fry for a couple of minutes. Add the fenugreek and spinach leaves and fry for about 4-5 minutes. Add the cooked dal and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes and serve hot.

December 28, 2009

Carrot Kheer

Carrots. I can't seem to get enough of them ever. Especially the lovely red carrots that make an appearance at this time of the year. I tend to put them in everything from salads to pulaos to casseroles to cakes and desserts. I had eaten carrot kheer only once. A classmate of mine invited me to her place for lunch almost a decade ago, and she served this for dessert. Ever since, I've wanted to make it. But considering I'm not the biggest fan of kheer, this always took a backseat. Last weekend, I wanted to make something for dessert after lunch and I made this. We enjoyed this for a couple of days and I'm actually itching to make it again.

2 cups Carrot, grated

1/2 can Sweetened Condensed Milk (Milkmaid/Mithai Mate)

2-3 cups Milk

a pinch Saffron, dissolved in some milk

1/4 tsp Cardamom Powder

1 tbsp Kesari Milk Masala

Microwave the grated carrots (with a little water) on high for 2-3 minutes.

Bring the milk to a boil in a large vessel and add the condensed milk to it. Keep stirring until the mixture is even (else you'll have burnt condensed milk). Add the grated carrots and the saffron paste and simmer the mixture for about 10-15 minutes. It will begin to thicken nicely. Add the milk masala powder and take off the flame after a couple of minutes.

While you could enjoy it warm, I found that it tastes best the next day after it has sat for a night in the fridge. The colour seems to intensify and the flavours are just so... well, why should I tell you. You should try for yourself.

Off this goes to the JFI: Saffron event being hosted by my erstwhile fellow marathoner, DK.

December 27, 2009

Radish-Broccoli-Onion-Potato Sukke

Elaborate lunches. They get pushed to weekends. When the weekend comes, they get pushed back into the next week. This kept happening for quite a while before I realized that we were eating one pot meals all the time. One weekend, I decided to fix this issue and made a konkani meal. Sukke, dali-saar and rice. Not elaborate by any standards, but when all your other meals are pulaos or mixed rice dishes or roti and sabzi at best, this meal, simple as it might be, comes as a much needed whiff of fresh air.

Sukke is a dish that was a staple at Amma's place, more as a side for chapatis than with rice and dali-saar. I added whatever vegetables I wanted to use up and I was rather happy with the result. I tend to use broccoli florets a lot and the stalks always seemed to only get used in soup. Now, I am bursting with ideas to use broccoli stalks in many ways.

1 Radish, peeled

1/2 cup Broccoli stalks, peeled

2 Potatoes, peeled and quartered

2 Onions, quartered

1/2 tsp Fenugreek Seeds

1/2 tsp Coriander Seeds

1 tsp Oil

1/4 cup Coconut

3-4 Red Chillies

1 tbsp Tamarind Paste

1/4 tsp Turmeric

2 tsp Jaggery (optional)

Salt to taste

For the tempering:

1 tsp Oil

1/4 tsp Mustard Seeds

1/4 tsp Asafoetida

7-8 Curry Leaves

Cut the radish and the broccoli stalks into 2" long pieces. Pressure cook the radish, broccoli stalks, onions and potatoes with a little salt for 1-2 whistles.

Heat the oil and fry the fenugreek seeds and the coriander seeds for a minute. Grind this along with the turmeric, tamarind, coconut and red chillies to a somewhat fine paste. Add this paste to the cooked vegetables and add salt to taste. Add the jaggery, if using. Cook for 4-5 minutes.

Heat the teaspoon of oil for the tempering in a frying ladle. Add the mustard and the asafoetida. When the mustard splutters, add the curry leaves. Add this tempering to the vegetable mixture. Serve hot with rice and dali-saar.

December 26, 2009

Carrot and Raisin Cake

At the very last minute, my friend asked me to bring some cake for her birthday party. It was a weeknight and I had very little time. So, I relied on my time tested recipe and modified it. Carrots are in season and I love putting them to use in every way I can. I had some rum soaked raisins at hand, and they added a wonderful flavour to the cake. The cake came together very quickly and was gone just as fast at the party.

1 cup Flour
1/2 cup Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder

Pinch of Salt
1/2 cup Milk

1/4 cup Oil
1/2 tsp Orange Essence
1 Egg, beaten

1/2 cup Carrot, grated

1/4 cup Raisins, soaked in rum for 24 hours

Preheat the oven to 400F (200 C).

Prepare an 8 inch cake tin by greasing it and dusting it with flour.

Sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a mixing bowl, add the egg, milk, sugar, oil, and orange essence. Beat well together. Add the flour mixture to this and blend well. Fold in the grated carrot and raisins. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin. Bake for 30 minutes or until a knife/skewer, inserted into the centre of the cake, comes out clean.

Serve warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on the side.

December 25, 2009

Savoury Bread Pudding

A few weeks ago, I had almost lost all my enthusiasm to cook. I was excited about being in a new house with a slightly bigger kitchen. But because my kitchen wasn't yet organized, I didn't seem to care that much about cooking. Also, thanks to some new cab routing issues, I was also getting home about an hour later than I used to earlier. So dinner was usually something I tried to "get over with" and lunch was anything that came together in 15 minutes or less.

Then came the end of November. And dear Nupur came up with her 40 recipes in 40 days schedule. She is to blame for a lot of things on this blog. Her series A-Z of Indian Vegetables is probably the very first blog event I ever participated in. Then, she very innocently put up this post about Eating Out While Eating In and that resulted in an entire series on my blog. So, I end this year with a mini 7-day marathon that Nupur is organizing.

Through Nupur's blog, I landed at Alanna's blog and bookmarked this recipe. Soon after, Nupur made this dish. I made it one winter afternoon, with several modifications, when I didn't feel like making a big lunch. It was a hit!

1 Onion, chopped

1 cup Spinach, chopped

1 tsp Olive Oil

1 Egg

3/4 cup Milk

2 tbsp Cream

1 tsp Mixed Herbs

1 tsp Chilli Flakes

2 tbsp Mustard (Dijon)

5 slices Bread, diced

1 cup Mixed Vegetables (Carrot, Beans, Peas, Corn), diced and cooked

1/4 cup Cheese, grated

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Butter to grease the baking dish

Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the onion for a minute. Add the spinach and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the salt, stir well and keep aside. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

In a bowl, beat the egg well. Add the milk and cream along with the mustard. Add the chilli flakes and mixed herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Blend in the spinach onion mixture.

In the greased baking dish, place the bread and the mixed vegetables. Pour the egg-spinach mixture. Cover with grated cheese, season with salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes.

I thought bread puddings only tasted great sweet, but this recipe is a keeper. Thanks Nupur and Alanna.

Tasty Trials with a dollop of Sunshine

Last month, I set out to put the Sunshine Mom on a trial of a different kind. I asked everyone out there to go through her blog and read her recipes. After that all that was needed to be done was to cook something from there and talk about it on their blogs. Simple, you'd think. It is only when you get to Harini's blog and start looking at the sheer variety of recipes that you realize that the task at hand isn't half as simple as it sounds. I know this because I spent almost the entire month going through the blog, bookmarking several recipes to end up making the simplest one there was just so I didn't have to be late for my own event.

The responses have been wonderful despite the fact that I was an intermittent blogger the whole of last month. Here's a snapshot:

Top Row(L to R):

Aloo Bhindi from Priya of Easy N Tasty Recipes

Avarakkai Poduthuval from Aliena of Recipes for the Everyday Woman

Second Row (L to R):

Avial from Lata Raja of Flavours and Tastes

Besan Cheela from Jayasree of Kailas Kitchen

Cauliflower and Green Peas from Ksenia of Tales of a Spoon

Dhingri Badaami from Andy of Food & More

Third Row (L to R):

Gobi Paratha from Malini of Khana Khazana

Green Gram Salad from Kanchan of Kitchen Gossip

Paneer Makhani from Divya of Dil Se

Paneer Makhani from Sowjanya of Ruchika Cooks

Botton Row (L to R):

Tofu Chocolate Pudding from Yasmeen of the Health Nut

Zapplas from Sweatha of Tasty Curry Leaf

Chickpea Salad from Raaga of The Singing Chef

Divya of Dil Se will host the T&T event for March 2010. Thanks Zlamushka for giving me the honour of hosting the T&T November 2009.

Season's Greetings Everyone!

December 4, 2009

Soya Makhani

When we moved to this new apartment, I somehow didn't manage to cook anything decent for the first few days. But we still took our lunch packed in boxes. The lunches usually had soya, paneer, peas, lentils... you get the drift, don't you? Since Amma and Appa were here then, Amma would make dinner each night and that was the only meal which gave us our vegetable fix.

Soya makhani is one such dish that was put together in less than 10 minutes. Thanks to soya chunks and bhuna masala. This is kind of like the vegetarian version of butter chicken, but made completely the cheater's way.

1 cup Soya Nuggets, prepared according to instructions on the pack

1 packet Maggi Bhuna Masala for Gravy Dishes

1/2 cup Milk

1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder

1 tsp Chilli Powder

1 tsp Dried Fenugreek Leaves (Kasuri Methi)

Salt to taste

Heat the bhuna masala in a kadhai and add the chilli powder, turmeric and salt. Fry for a minute.

(If you do not have access to Maggi Bhuna Masala, you could heat a tablespoon of oil, fry the paste of 1 onion along with a teaspoon of ginger garlic paste. After the onion paste is fried for 3-4 minutes, add 2-3 tbsp of tomato puree and cook for 2-3 minutes more.)

Add the milk and bring the mixture to a boil over a low flame. Add the soya nuggets and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the dried fenugreek leaves and take off the flame. Serve hot with rotis.