February 18, 2015

Saffron broccoli and cauliflower

Saffron cauliflower

It has been so cold here, that the brain has been in freeze mode. For once, I'm glad that the kids are off their preschool for mid winter break. We and they are spared of the endless layers to be put on and then removed.

I know, I know, I live in the Mid West and shouldn't be complaining but when it's so cold (tomorrow the high is 4 and low -14deg F) then all bets are off.

In the middle of all this cold, I have been making mostly comfort food, but have tried some new recipes as well.

During the holidays, I got Jerusalem by Yottam Ottolenghi and I have been meaning to try recipes from there.

I finally got a chance to try the saffron cauliflower last week when some friends were over. The base of the recipe is so good, that all I had to do was spice it up a little bit, mix some broccoli with cauliflower and it was ready. It went really well with the rest of the meal.

It's perfect to serve with some chicken or even a mixed pulao/rice as well.

The heady mix of saffron and olives with some onions and 1 garlic and then topped with some parsley made the cauliflower and broccoli shine. 

Here is how I did it:
Saffron cauliflower

(recipe from Jerusalem by Yottam Ottolenghi with modifications)
Serves 5-6

 I small cauliflower head - cut into florets
1 small broccoli head - cut into florets
I medium red onion sliced
1 garlic clove- grated (mine was a fat one, use two if needed)
1/2 tspoon saffron infused in 3 tbspoon water
1/4 cup olives - chopped roughly
1/4 cup raisins (I used the dark raisins that I had at home)
2 bay leaves
1/2 tspoon turmeric powder
1/2 tspoon coriander powder
1/2 tspoon cumin seed powder
Salt and pepper as needed
1tbspoon olive oil
4 tbspoon chopped parsley
1 tspoon lemon juice (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400deg F.
Mix all the ingredients except parsley and lemon juice in an oven safe dish. Mix the spices first with oil and then add the cauliflower and broccoli.

Then cook it in the oven for 30-40 minutes till the broccoli and cauliflower is cooked but not too soft. Midway, take the dish out and give it a good stir and put it back in.

Saffron cauliflower
Take out the dish, add the parsley and lemon juice, stir it well and then serve warm.

January 28, 2015

Celebrating 5th birthday with Ninjago lemon cake

Lemon cake with ninjagos

This last fall Lil A has been obsessed with Ninja turtles and then Ninjago characters. So when I asked him what cake he wanted for his birthday, he said Ninjago cake without batting an eyelid. My brain went into shock. How am I going to make it?

The next day we were at his pediatrician for a check up and he told the doctor, "My mommy is making me a ninjago cake for my birthday." She looked at me and said, "don't forget to get a picture when you are here next." Ah, my heart sank.

After several failed attempts to not do it, I decided to tackle it myself. If you don't know what ninjagos are: there are five of them with different colors. One of them is a teacher with white flowing beard and a hat, the other four are the ninjas.

I got fondants from Michaels, little packages, of red, black and white. I made the yellow and blue using food color and white fondant. I saw this YouTube video and sort of followed it.

Lemon cake with Ninjago characters
I also got a edible Ninjago edible cake strip from Etsy. I put that around the cake and the birthday boy was thrilled.

We had a little birthday party for Lil A with 5 of his friends and I made some extra ninjago characters, so each of them (including Tiny M) had a character to eat.

I kept the cake simple - lemon cake with whipping cake frosting and then put the characters on top. It was such a hit. The 4 and 5-year-olds are generous with their praise. :)

21/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
21/2 cup baking powder
1/2 tspoon salt
10tbspoon softened butter
3 eggs
Finely grated zest of one lemon
1/2 cup milk

For whipping cream
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tspoon vanilla essence

Set the oven to 350deg F. Butter and flour two 9-inch pans and keep it aside.

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder to take out all the lumps.

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter till it is smooth. Then add sugar in 3 or four portions till it is all incorporated and the butter had become fluffy and changed color.

Break one egg at a time and then mix it in a small bowl. Add it to the butter mix and mix for a minute. Repeat to incorporate all eggs.

Then add the lemon zest. Then add the flour in 3 or 4 portions along with little bit of milk each time. The batter will not be too runny.

Divide the batter into the two cake pans and then let it bake for 35-40 min.

Let it cool completely. In the meantime, mix all the ingredients and make the whipping cream.

Lemon cake with ninjagos
Add the whipping cream between the two cakes and on top. Just before taking the cake out, add the figures on the cake.


January 20, 2015

Making Japanese milk bread at home

Japanese milk bread

It was late, I was putting kids to bed, almost half asleep myself when a picture popped into my facebook feed. It was the softest bread I had seen and all I remember was the name - Japanese milk bread. Somehow, I could never find that picture again. But it had served its purpose. Next day, I woke up determined to learn more about this.

There were many, many recipes and versions to follow. You can add condensed milk, heavy cream to the ingredients in some of them.

I decided to give a try to New York Times recipe. But I made some modifications. I used whole wheat white flour. Plus, I don't have a mixer, you see. So I did it all by hand.

But the taste, what can I tell you. With hints of sweetness, and buttery taste with flaky crumb, this bread was my companion till we finished it. You can butter it, add some jam or even condensed milk, and it will still taste amazing.

The secret to the bread is tanzhong - a roux of flour, milk and water that is cooked on stove top. I have detailed pictures of the steps, so I hope it's easy to explain.


For Tanzhong:
1/3 cup whole wheat white flour (the recipe calls for bread flour)
120 ml milk
1/2 cup water

For the Dough:
21/2 cups whole wheat white flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tspoon salt
2 tspoon active dry yeast (it's 1 packet)
1 egg
120 ml milk
4 tbspoon butter (unsalted and softened)

Make the starter: In a small heavy pot mix the flour, milk and water together till there are no lumps. Cook it on medium low heat, stirry constantly till it has thickened about 7-8 minutes. It will thicken more as it cools.
Once it's done, pour it in a cup. We will use half for this bread and you can make one more with the leftover.

Japanese milk bread
Make the dough: Combine flour, sugar, yeast and salt together. Mix egg and milk together.
Japanese milk bread
Now slowly add this to the flour and combine. Then add about half of tanzhong and mix it together. It will be sticky and feel weird, but it's okay. It will come together. Knead for good 4-5 minutes.

Cut the softened butter into cubes and then incorporate it in the dough. The dough will start coming together at this point. Knead it well for another 8-10 minutes till a soft dough forms.

Lightly butter the inside of a bowl and let the dough sit in it for about an hour. It should almost double in size. Since it's winter, I left mine inside the oven with light on.

Japanese milk bread
Punch the dough down and then divide the dough into 4 pieces.

Cover and let it rise for another 15-20 minutes and it will double in size again.

In the meantime, set the oven to 350 degF and butter and flour a loaf pan.

By now, the dough is nice and springy.

Japanese milk bread
Take one ball out and roll it out to an oval. Roll the top and bottom of the oval and then roll the other two side together and put it seam down in the loaf pan. Repeat with the other three dough balls.

Japanese milk bread
Cover and let it rest for another 45 minutes and then brush it lightly with butter. 

Japanese milk bread
Then bake it for 30 to 40 minutes. Let it cool for atleast an hour and then it's ready.

Japanese milk bread

January 07, 2015

Goddu rasam to put us back on track

Happy New Year friends! Hope your new year is filled with fun, love, good health and good food.

We went away to Tampa, Florida for the last week of December and soaked in all the sun, visited the beach, relaxed, went to the zoo, aquarium, and had fun with the kids.

Goddu rasam Lil A and Tiny M went swimming everyday and grew more confident about being in the water. There was also a splash pad in the resort, but they didn't care for it much. After 5 days of fun-filled days, we came back home and promptly fell sick.

So I made goddu saar or rasam, friend some papads and made some rice and we all had a big bowl of the rasam which aswin and my MIL swear by. The perfect mix of sour and sweet soothes the throat and the soul.

Here is her recipe.

Goddu rasam
1 1/2 tbspoon toor dal
1/2 tspoon tamarind paste
1 tbspoon jaggery
1 tspoon ghee
1/2 tspoon tumeric powder
pinch of asafoetida
salt to taste

For Tempering
1 tspoon ghee
2 red chillie
1/4 tspoon mustard seeds
4-5 torn curry leaves

Mix the tamarind paste in one cup water and mix nicely.

Then take a pan, heat the ghee and roast the toor dal till it turns golden and has a nice aroma.

Heat the tamarind water, add the asafoetida, jaggery and turmeric powder in it. Once it come to boil, add the dal and let it cook for 10-11 minutes till the dal has softened.

Add salt swtich it off.

Take a tempering pan, add ghee, and then temper it with mustard seeds first. Once they start popping, add the chillies and then curry leaves.

Add this to the rasam.
Goddu rasam
Serve it as a soup or with some rice and papad.

December 19, 2014

No bake mouse cookies

Mouse cookies

This Fall Lil A got into ninjas, he started doing moves, and wanted to learn karate. That led us to enrolling him in a little Ninja karate class.

While he was a little unsure in the beginning as the months have gone by, he has become more and more comfortable. Lil A enjoys wearing his uniform and going to his class. They do little karate, then play games and have a little chat. We've learned ninja dodge ball is a lot of fun and Tiny M likes it too.

The little ninjas had a christmas party this week and that's where I discovered these cookies and of course had to try them immediately. They are easy to make, no baking involved and kids and adults like it in equal measures.

12 oreo cookies
1 small bottle of maraschino cherries
12 hershey's kisses
4-5 tblpoons chocolate chips (I had 50% cacao and used that)
2-3 tblspoon milk
1 tbspoon water
food color tube
handful of sliced almonds

Take about 12-13 maraschino cherries from bottle and dry them on a paper towel.

For the base of the cookies, take the top of the oreo cookies out and set the cream side on a tray.

Take the food color tube and make small dots (eyes) on Hershey's kisses making sure the tip is facing you.

Now, put the chocolate chips in a small glass bowl, add the milk, water and microwave it in 30 second intervals and mix the chocolate well. Repeat till it all chocolate melts and is a smooth consistency. It can take anywhere between 1 1/2 minute to 21/2 minute depending on your microwave.

Dip one cherry in the chocolate mix and set it on top of a oreo cream cookie with the stem facing out and up. Then dip the flat side of Hershey's kisses and stick it to the cherry. Take a couple of almond slices. Dip little bit in chocolate and slide in in between the Hershey's and cherry. Be careful that it all stays together till it dries.
Mouse cookies

Repeat it for all dozen cookies.

Let it set and it's ready - dessert for your holiday party or perfect for cookie exchange.

Have a  wonderful holiday season.

December 09, 2014

Phyllo dough vegetarian pizza

Phyllo pizza

Sometimes I have these moments when using existing ingredients and making a delicious dinner works in tandem while entertaining. This was one of those times. And I have to say this. If you are thinking of making something to wow your guests, look no further than this phyllo dough vegetarian pizza.

With a little prep time, this pizza comes together nicely and you can decide what topping goes on the phyllo dough. I used a mix of cheese, green, olives and roasted vegetables, but really the choices are endless. You can go with chicken, chickpeas, pesto with capers or any other combination you can dream of.

I had bought some phyllo dough from Trader Joe's and it had been sitting in the freezer for a couple of weeks. Then this pizza presented itself. It went well with a bowl of chicken stew.

1 phyllo dough
1/3 bag of green - chopped
1/2 onion - sliced thinly
1/2 pepper - sliced thinly
4-5 mushrooms - sliced
1/2 cup cheese - chopped in small cubes (I used a mix of cheddar and raspberry wine soaked cheese which had a good bite to it)
1/4 cup Olives - pitted an chopped
4 tbspoon Olive oil
1/4 tspoon turmeric powder
1/4 tspoon cumin seed powder
pinch of fresh black pepper
salt to taste

Take a baking pan and cover it with foil. Oil it nicely. Then take about 2 sheet of phyllo dough, brush it with oil and then layer it with another 2 layer of dough and continue till you finish the dough.

Phyllo pizza
Preheat the oven to 350 deg F and then bake the phyllo dough with 8-10 minutes.

In the meantime, heat a pan with 2 tbspoon oil and add onions. Saute it for 3-4 minutes. As it browns, add the peppers and mushroom, add turmeric powder, cumin seed powder, black pepper and salt. Let it cook for another 3-4 minutes till the water released by mushrooms have dried.

Take it off the heat and cool.

Phyllo pizza
Combine greens, cheese, veggie mix, and olives together in a bowl.

Phyllo pizza
Cut the phyllo dough into serving pieces and then top it with the green, cheese veggie mix. Serve while warm.


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