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I am a professional and a cook,rather a cook by choice and passion.Cooking is something I fantasise about.When I first thought of starting a blog,a thousand ideas coursed through my mind,albeit,none stood the sands of time.Except for the thought of a food blog accompanied by subtle nuances from daily life and from the world around me!



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Friday, March 30, 2012

Still catching up - and an exciting round-up!

At the very beginning of this still-beautiful year 2012, I had thought of hosting an event. And that event was just about Lentils! So I had announced its existence, and some talented cooks dropped in with their awesome recipes. But just when I was thinking of graciously bringing down the curtain on it (I swear I had planned so!), a nasty virus bit my laptop hard! I am still in the throes of catching up on lost times and for today's post, I chose to get back to that much much delayed round-up. 

So without mincing words further, let me move on the much awaited unveiling of all the lovely dishes that I have been able to bring forth to my blog table - courtesy of all my kind friends out there who cared to take out time and send me their wonderful lentil dishes.In some, lentil was the main base while for others, lentil was a subtle hint that could not be done without!Any way it was, the ultimate dish was delightful.

To start off, I would like to mention my dear friend Faseela from 'Good Food Ends with Good Talk' who turned my event from an almost lackadaisical affair to a cacophonous blast - sending in a whopping 13 recipes from her own kitchen itself!Thank you so much Faseela - you cannot imagine how much your enthusiasm means to me!Faseela has fashioned out a whole range of recipes ranging from soups to fritters, curries to mishmashes and even a savory powder, all having different varieties of lentils in them.Following her very closely are Divya from 'Dil se...'  and Priya from 'Priya's Easy n Tasty Recipes' with 4 entries each. Thanks so much guys - your participation meant a lot. A big 'Thank You' to all my friends who linked up a post - the main aim of my event was to bring together lentil-based dishes in one place so that you do not have to scamper over the net everytime you think of making something with lentils. And thanks to these talented bloggers, mission has been accomplished to an extent that leaves me happy. And I hope will make all my readers happy too. So click on the logo below for your exciting tour through Lentil Land and have fun!:)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Of tags and awards and a much delayed ode!

When I was away for a short while, talented bloggers all around were spinning their magic threads in blogland and creating things exquisite, as always! Cooking, baking, thinking up new ideas and decking up their blogs with more interesting stuff. In the midst of all this, they even found time to share lovely awards with others and little did they figure the joy they had spread by doing that!

I, for one, was overjoyed to get a whole plethora of awesome awards from Amelia of Amelia’s De-ssert! Amelia, you are such a darling! I feel so humbled to be getting this awesome haul of awards from you – thanks for remembering me, dear friend! Amelia is not only a great cook and baker, but a person of many qualities. Check out her interesting blog to know more about this charismatic lady who I am fortunate to have as a dear friend!
My next award is from another dear friend Suchi of ‘Kitchen Karma’ who was so kind to be sharing the ‘Versatile Blogger’ award with me. Thank you so much Suchi, for this award. Though I had the privilege of getting this award twice before – from my very dear friend Kitty of Kitty’s Kozy Kitchen and of course, Amelia above – it still feels special everytime:) Suchi is a prolific writer who not only writes a lovely food blog but also has another blog to her credit, where she pens down her thoughts about the world around her. And believe me, what a lovely read that makes! Do check out Suchi’s wonderful blog for more!

Then comes another surprise – not an award, but a cute tag this time!  And I got it from one of my favorite bloggers and awesome cook, Ambreen of ‘Simply Sweet ‘n Savory’. Thanks so much for thinking of me, dear! Ambreen has tagged my blog and I now have 12 questions about myself that I need to answer, figuring out another set of 12 questions that I desire to know about the people I tag in turn! Well, another of those things that makes me feel jittery but when it is dear Ambreen, I’m all for it! Well the rules that come with it are posted below. It’s a nice way of knowing more about friends whom you care for – do check out Ambreen’s lovely blog too and don’t let yourself miss out on her exotic creations!

The Rules:
1. You must post the rules.
2. Post 12 fun facts about yourself in the blog post.
3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create 12 new questions for the people you tagged.
4. Tag 12 people and link them on your post.
5. Let them know you've tagged them.

12 Facts About Me :
1.I am a shy person and generally stay away from too much attention.
2.I am a foodie to the core – not that I eat too much but I love to taste everything!
3.I am absolutely passionate about baking.
4.My Maa is my best friend in the whole wide world!
5.Reading is another passion and I read just about everything I manage to lay my hands on – books make me extremely happy.
6.I prefer to spend time by myself, doing all the things I like to do and am deft in keeping myself involved with something or the other, always.
7.Well-made and practical movies give me a huge kick.
8.I love to write and my blog first made me feel the joy of creation
9.I abhor the idea of keeping pets – to me, cats and dogs look good in photo frames only!
10.I am a firm believer in destiny and take my life as it comes to me, every moment that I live.
11.My first ever gift to anyone was a hand-sewn little purse that I made for my Maa when I was 5. It was a messy disaster – but she has kept it with her to this day!
12.I believe that there is no end to learning and I wish to keep on learning till my last day.

Ambreen’s Questions :
1.Describe yourself in 3 words? Practical, reticent, responsible.
2.If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose?  Chicken Biryani!!
3.What is your favorite movie? City of Angels.
4.What is your favorite type of cuisine? Mediterranean cuisine.
5.What scares you the most? Losing my memory!
6.Coffee, tea, or neither? Tea, always!
7.What is your favorite place you have ever visited? Kingston, Canada.
8.Are you a sweet tooth or savory tooth? Both!
9. What is your favorite song? ‘Top of the World’ – The Carpenters.
10.If you could change just one thing about yourself, what would it be? My habit to be judgemental about anything too soon.
11.What’s one goal you have for this year? Nothing as such – I like to take life as it comes!
12.What is your most favorite post on your blog? So many of them are close to my heart – guess its too difficult to choose just one:)

My Questions :
1. Given a choice, which profession would you love to choose?
2. What pleases you more – cooking or baking?
3. Which movie is you favorite movie?
4. If there was one thing that you could change in your family, what would it be?
5. If there was one thing that you could change in you, what would it be?
6. Do you feel the need to refer to cookbooks when you cook/bake? Give the reason why.
7. Who is the greatest inspiration of your life?
8. Which is the most recent book/magazine you have read?
9. What made you start blogging?
10. On an average, what percentage of time can you afford to spend on your blog in a day?
11. Which feature of blogging do you like the most?
12. What feature in my blog do you like the most?

Phew!Sorry - I know that was awfully long! But the fun part is still to come. And that is the tagging:) So here goes a list of 12 of my dear blogger friends whom I'd like to tag - whom all of you will enjoy doing this as much as I did:

Amelia of Amelia's De-ssert
Marsha of The Better Baker
Suchi of Kitchen Karma
Sobha of Good Food
Amina of Amina Creations
La of  Food Slice
Aruna of Veggie Paradise

I had a lot more friends whom I would love to tag, but had to stop at 12 - since that's how the rule goes!Anyway, that's all for today's post. I will be back with another recipe soon. Till then - have fun and stay well:)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cilantro Stems Chutney - a sweet precursor to summer!

Just happened to chance upon the famed chef, cookbook author and cookery show host Laura Calder some time back. It was surprising how I didn't manage to come across this spirited Canadian lady during my time in Canada, given that her show was a regular on Food Network Canada. I am an insanely voracious reader and have this penchant to delve relentlessly into cookbooks and scour the Internet for cooking techniques from expert cooks all over the world! Which is how I came across Laura Calder!
And once I had found her, I was reading about her fascinating French recipes and cooking techniques and her eventful life. An alumni of Concordia University, Montreal and York University, Toronto and also the London School of  Economics, she digressed early in life  from what she had been educated in to something absolutely offbeat French cooking - and pursued it passionately till she reached perfection. In her own words, she was doing everything right as the world saw it – she had a job which was paying her well, she had a good life and she had everything she could have -   though deep down she knew it was not what she wanted to do! Now, isn't that a known feeling that we all feel at sometime in our life! At least, I do! But then this gutsy lady – she chose to follow her dreams leaving the comfort of a world she knew. She traveled all the way to France to get a taste of real French cooking and methods and fearlessly treaded into the amazing world of French cooking, loaded with optimism and the unwavering zeal to learn.

And what an amazing cook she turned out to be! I have been hooked on to her series on French home cooking titled ‘Laura Calder – French Cooking at Home’ and it has been an immensely satisfying experience! Laura has a very easy-going demeanor and makes it a point to infuse her cooking with a witty repartee her and there! Her style of cooking is lucid, simple and detailed. She hosts her show in a well-stocked up, but not over made, urban kitchen and uses simple everyday cooking tools to rustle up her delicacies. A gadget does peek in now and then, but since she abhors gadgets personally, her cooking style is attuned more to home cooking with easily attainable cooking paraphernalia. Whether it is kneading flour for a Pissaladière which is a French pizza, or melting duck fat in one of her many shining steel pots for her favorite Duck Confit or fashioning out her flaky Mille Feuille and smearing it with pastry cream and dunking plump blueberries in between – everything she does has a scrumptiously contagious flair to it! So if you love French food and want to learn the secrets behind them, catch up with this intelligent, young chef extraordinaire and find yourself enamored by her charm and cooking finesse.
That leaves me with my recipe for today, which is homemade  Cilantro stems Chutney. Every time a bunch of Cilantro makes way into my kitchen, the leaves get shorn off the stems and the stems then get dumped into the trash bin! Simply because the Husband can't bear the thought of eating cilantro sticks in his curry!But it makes me feel very guilty to throw them away because I always felt they are edible and healthy for us to have. So this Sunday, I set out to replicate my Maa's Cilantro Chutney which she would make on hot, summer days - with a difference. Instead of the Cilantro leaves, I used the stems and replaced the tart Tamarind with dried Mangoes. It turned out to be so tasty, that I haven't been able to stop myself from plonking spoonfuls of it into my month at regular intervals. A must have for the summer days to come - because the cooling effect of the Cilantro and the lovely flavor is bound to bowl you over!

Cilantro stems Chutney

You will need:
Cilantro stems – About 6 cups, chopped roughly
Green chilies – 4 to 5, whole
Green peppers – 1 cup, roughly chopped
Ginger – About 3 inches, roughly diced
Castor sugar – 1 cup
Salt – 2 teaspoons
Dried mango slivers – 7 to 8 (if you are using the store bought variety). If using fresh, 4-5 slivers will suffice.
Roasted Cumin powder – 2 teaspoons
Mustard oil – 3 tablespoons

How I made it:
1. Combine the coriander stems, ginger, green chilies, green peppers, castor sugar and salt in a blender and pulse everything together on high for 7-8 mins, till all the ingredients are combined to form a fairly deep green mush.

2. Add the roasted cumin powder to the green mush and again pulse on high for another 10 mins. At this point, you might notice that the color of the chutney gradually changes from a fresh green to a cooked green or slightly olive green. That is because pulsing creates some amount of heat which caramelizes the sugar in the chutney, lending an amber hue to the fr
esh green. The result is slighter darker and richer olive green chutney.

3. Heat up the mustard oil in a pan till it just starts bubbling and then put off the flame. Allow the oil to cool down completely. Heating the oil ensures that the oil is not raw but cooked, emanating a beautiful pungent mustardy flavor. But we would want to cool it down so that it does not start cooking the green mush the moment it is added. Rather it should first be combined well and then it should infuse its flavors into the chutney.

4. Once the oil has cooled down completely, add it to the olive green chutney and pulse for another 4-5 mins. Taste the sweet, savory and tart flavors and check if the balance is pleasant to your taste buds. Add sugar or salt or a couple of more mango slices if you feel the chutney needs it. 

5. Your rich green cilantro stems chutney is ready. You can have this as a dip for chips or crackers or as an accompaniment with any Indian Flatbread like ‘Roti’ or ‘Paratha’. Tastes lovely as a spread on toasted bread and can be had just like that! Enjoy!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Rustic Apple Ginger & Cashew cake - a comeback, a celebration and catching up!

Hello, all my dear friends – I am back!

 I know I have been quite clumsy with things. Given that I now have the privilege of having many lovely blogger friends who are kind enough to care and think about me, I should have let you all know of my short break before slinking off wordlessly! My ardent apologies!
As some of my dear friends already know, it all started with a weird virus attack on my laptop the evening I wrote my last post. It was snowing that day and I wanted to post some photos of the lovely white landscape around here in my post the next day. I was reaching a lot of milestones too – my 100th post, my 2nd Blog anniversary – and to celebrate it all I had baked a lovely Apple Ginger and Cashew cake the day before. The photos had all been downloaded, decked up and ooh aahed and everything was on track. When suddenly my laptop went ‘Pffuft!’ and lay cold and dead. My attempts to restart were met with chilly stares and then the inevitable blue screen shrieked out at me from the monitor – something had gone desperately wrong! After incessant calls to the service centers and trial and tribulations by helpful friends who proffered their kind help, we concluded that the only way out was a re-imaging - which would wash out all my data! I limply hung on to the last straw of hope that things could be revived keeping my things intact – but I was just hoping against hope. I lost all my precious photos – the ones that I had been saving up to share with my friends. Not that I can’t make them again, but the efforts just went to a waste and I felt so stupid and guilty that I had not even thought of taking a back-up! Guess I trusted my laptop too much – but a machine is after all a machine.
Anyway, I have started picking up the threads from where I had left off. It will be sometime before I can build back everything again, but a couple of important lessons that I learnt from this. Firstly, I would never have realized how attached I have become to my blog in the course of time, if this had not happened. The morning after, it felt like an abysmal void, when I could not write another  of my blog posts or hop onto my friends’ places to see what they were cooking or baking that day! I could not read what my friends had to say about any of my recipes or I could not welcome any new friend eager to join me on my journey. It all felt like a gaping hole. In my two years of blogging, my blog had filled in for me very loyally many a times – on days when I was hurt and sad, I sat down with my blog. When worries incessantly plagued my mind, my blog helped me channel my senses to something productive and substantial. At time when I felt unworthy and useless, my blog gave me lovely friends who showered me with gifts and showed their appreciation for my worth. My blog had become my friend in need and deed. It had become my identity.
Secondly, it was an utterly humbling experience to realize that I had some lovely friends who cared to keep me in their thoughts - even when I was out of sight! I don’t mean to say that they would not, but I know how weighed down everyone is with the travails of daily life in this fast and pushing world. And to hand me some lovely awards and care to drop in a note to know how I was doing was so overwhelming!  Thanks my dears AmeliaMarsha, Suchi, Ambreen and Faseela!:) Your thoughtful notes meant the world to me! I will blog about the awards in my next post very soon – please do forgive my sinful procrastination, but I hope to make amends and catch up with your lovely blogs pretty soon!
My blog completed a happy two years on Feb 24. I re-baked the rustic Apple Ginger and Cashew cake which I had originally baked to post on that day. Only this time, I baked in the brand new Springform pan that a very dear friend gifted to me as a belated wedding anniversary gift! Actually it is a set of three Springform pans in three different sizes – an 8”, a 9” and a 10 “pan all packed together in one and I started off with using the 8” pan to bake my cake just to keep it small and cozy. The pans are such a good quality that I genuinely believe baking in that pan added a super smooth edge to my cake – and I’m not exaggerating here, cause it sure did! So here’s celebrating my 100th post and my blog’s 2nd Birthday with this delicious cake - do give this a try and please keep your thoughts flowing in. Hearing from you all has always been a delight!

Rustic Apple Ginger and Cashew nut cake
You will need:
All Purpose Flour – 1 cup
Soft Muscovado sugar – 1 and ¼ th cups
2 large eggs
Warm milk – Half a cup
Butter – 1 stick, softened
Baking soda - 1 and ½ teaspoon
1 large Apple, diced into small squares (I used McIntosh. Any sweet variety would work well)
Zest of half a lemon
Juice of half a lemon
Ginger – About 2 inches, finely minced
Instant coffee – 1 teaspoon
Vanilla extract – 2 and ½ teaspoons
Unsalted Cashewnuts – ½ a cup

How I made it:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a Springform pan or baking tin with parchment paper. You may butter the bottom and sides if you prefer doing that too.

2. In a large bowl, add the cored apples, minced ginger, cashew nuts, lemon zest and juice of half a lemon. Mix everything together and then add a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Leave aside for 10 mins and allow all the flavors to come together.

3. Separate the egg yolks from the whites and beat the egg whites with a whisk or an electric beater till it becomes stiff and glossy. In a separate bowl, take the softened butter and egg yolks and beat well till it becomes a faint yellow, light and fluffy. At this point, add in the softened butter and beat again. The color will turn a tad darker from faint yellow to beige, due to the golden color of the Muscovado sugar.

4. Next add in the milk and the instant coffee and beat everything together well. Next add in the stiffened egg white to this wet batter and slowly and gently fold everything together with a wooden spatula. The stiffened egg whites have air captured in them which adds lightness to the cake batter leading to a soft texture.

5. In another bowl, take the flour and baking soda and mix well. Take 2 tablespoons from this flour mixture and add to the diced apple, ginger and nuts mixture. Mix with a spoon so that the flour coats the apples and ginger.

6. To the wet mixture, start adding the flour and baking soda mixture in small batches and keep folding in every batch gently till all of the flour mixture is incorporated. Once done, add the apple mixture doused with flour in the same way and keep folding everything together gently.

7. Now pour the cake batter gently onto your baking tin and level the top roughly with the spatula. It needs to have a rustic feel to it and hence doesn’t need to be too smooth. Sprinkle the top lightly with a little Muscovado sugar for a golden, glistening top.
8. Cover the top with an aluminum foil, leaving a small gap to allow the cooking steam to vent out, lest it scorches the top. Bake the cake for 45-50 mins or till a toothpick comes out clean. Remember to remove the foil cover for the last 15 mins of the bake. Enjoy the citrusy aroma of baking apples infused with a lemony zing, and savor it wafting through your kitchen! Happy baking till next time!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chocolate and Ricotta cheese muffins for a white Valentine's Day!

We had a lovely Sunday lunch yesterday. We were slated to have snow today down here in the South and Midwest - so something inside my head was telling me to soak up all that lovely sunshine, gently warming the blanket of verdant green grass overlooking my friend's front porch.While wandering about, a couple of deep burrows in the thick torso of a gnarled, aged tree caught my eye.As I looked on intently, a couple of busy-bodied little squirrels, their thick bushy tails glistening in the sunshine, emerged out of the dark abyss of the burrows, meandered about a little on the edges of the branches and then rushed back in.I learnt from my friend, that of late the squirrels have been keeping very busy on days that are sunny, stacking up their resources to keep them warm and fed on the days that are cold and dank.And they might have already got an inkling of the snow scheduled for today which explained all that urgent preoccupation.And we think we are the ones endowed with all that intelligence - huh!
 Anyway, all that amusement led me away from what I intended to start with. And that was the table my friend had laid for us. All of it was extravagant Indian fare which started off grandly with a homemade Mutton Biryani and Chicken Korma curry. For friends who have not had an opportunity to taste Biryani yet, it is basically an extravagant rice and mutton dish, dipped in fragrant aromatic spices, not too overwhelming but pleasantly sublime and cooked on steam.Traditionally this dish has its roots in Persia or Iran, as we now know it as, but food historians say that it might have an Arabian link as well. The fun part is that we Indians are fortunate enough to have tasted Biryanis from both Iranian and Arabian cuisines - the Iranian recipe being brought over majorly to the northern, eastern and western parts of the Indian subcontinent in the late 17th and early 18th centuries by the Mughal rulers while the Arabian recipe being carried over to the southern fringes by the Arabian traders and merchants. In due course of time, each community in India learnt to develop their own style of cooking Biryani which resulted in the birth of more than fifty existing styles of Biryani today which are either gloriously anointed with the name of the place where the style originated or a particular method of cooking it. Some are spicy and hot, some are mildly spiced but nuttier - but the base of long grained Basmati rice, tender mutton, freshly ground spices and fresh clarified butter or 'Ghee' remains essentially the same.Which is what gave me the chutzpah to cross over my limits of sane,healthy eating and gorge on all that rich goodness at my friend's yesterday!
Still rife from the Biryani hangover, I sat snuggled up in my living room settee, early today morning. And watched the snowflakes, large and soft settling on the already pristine white rooftops and car tops, on the juniper branches in the compound below and on the walkways. The lazy bum in me craved for some piping hot goodness to go with my morning cup of coffee. If I haven't told you yet, yes we were slathered with a snow haul last night, just as the weather reports had predicted!I sprung up, a sudden energy creeping into me from somewhere and got to work, baking a batch of plump and moist chocolate muffins, the only added ingredient being Ricotta cheese.I had been struggling to infuse a wholesome moistness into the muffins I baked for quite some time, since every time I bake muffins, the husband whines that a bit more moistness would please his palate better.This time, I put my can of Ricotta cheese to use and voila,it worked!I still have to see if the moistness stays for some time, but as of now I am contented digging into the chocolatey goodness on a snowy day.And if you are wondering why I took the husband's whining to heart after all this time, I will smugly tell you that because it is Valentine's day tomorrow:) The happier I can keep him around this time, the lovelier my gift will be.....tee heee!Don't let out my secret guys and have a wonderful Valentine's day - lots of LOVE in the air (and snow)!!

Super-moist Chocolate and Ricotta cheese muffins
You will need:
Ricotta cheese - 3/4th of a tub i.e 7 oz or 350 gm approx.
All purpose flour - 1 and 1/2 cups
Granulated castor sugar - 1 and 1/4th cups
Unsalted butter - 5 tablespoons (melted)
2 large eggs
Unsweetened chocolate - 1/2 a cup
Whole milk - 1 and 1/2 cups
Baking soda - 2 teaspoons
Vanilla extract - 1 and 1/2 teaspoons
Bittersweet chocolate chips - 1/2 a cup
Salt - 1/2 a teaspoon

How I made it:
1. Preheat often to 375 degrees and butter a muffin tin. You can line with cupcake liners but I like muffins straight out of the tin.
2. In a bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, salt and unsweetened chocolate and mix together very evenly.In a separate large bowl, add the Ricotta cheese and eggs and beat till smooth with an electric beater. Next add the granulated castor sugar and beat again till the mixture becomes smooth and the sugar is incorporated well in the cheese mixture.

3. Next add in the Vanilla extract and whole milk and fold in lightly using a spatula. The batter might become a bit runny due to the addition of milk but don't worry - once the flour mixture is added, the batter will get back its consistency.

4. Next, add the flour mixture to the cheese and milk mixture in batches, folding in gently after every addition.take care not to over-mix, since that could make the muffins hard. Lightly folding in is just good enough.Keep adding the flour till all of it is exhausted and your muffin batter is now ready.
 5. Pour the batter into the muffin tins till almost 3/4th of it since the muffins will not rise as much due to the heaviness of the cheese. Stick in a couple of chocolate chips on top so that they retain their shape even when baked.Bake the muffins for about 20 minutes till a toothpick tells that it is done. Note that the inside of the muffins may still feel a bit moist when the outside is done and you should stop baking while some of the wet batter still sticks to the toothpick. This will result in a soft gooey interior which will leave the muffins moist but not messy.Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before taking the first bite. Feel the goodness, enjoy the love and 'Happy Valentine's Day'!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Savory Cottage Cheese Muffins and a delight!

The sun has not had a day of peace in a long while now!
 Almost the whole of January saw our little city sun-bathed and tepid everyday.Most of the trees had lost their leaves and become spindly, as it is winter, but some of the birches strangely flaunted their red pepper leaves, almost like a sparse wreath adorning a bald man's pate. Specially the tree just outside our bedroom window. And I prided on that when friends called from NYC and Philadelphia to let out their angst on having to trudge to work through streets dunked in snow in the dreary weather!

But come February, and everything changed. Within this first week, it felt like the sun had to be coaxed out almost everyday. Much of its strength has been drained out trying to jostle for space in the sky with menacing clouds hanging about everywhere.And the only sunshine I get through the window are a couple of stray sun rays late in the afternoon, lightening up the corner patch of my dining table for a fleeting while and then dying down.And this is supposed to be almost spring time!
 Anyway, I do have good company to keep me in jovial spirits even in this insipid weather.And one my dear friends Soni from Soni's Food for Thought was so kind as to gift me the 'Liebster Blog Award'. This is the second time that I had the honor of being passed on this award and I really feel humbled. Thank you Soni, for liking my blog this much - it always feels really really special to have something like this and I will make sure to pass on this award to some of my cherished fellow bloggers.Thanks for giving me the opportunity!Guys, Soni has a wonderful blog of her own and please do visit this lovely lady and check our her lip-smacking recipes!
 To sum up the rules of the award in Soni's own words, I quote her -

"Leibster" means dearest in German and as with any award, there is bit of a ceremony involved.These are the rules if you accept the award:
  • Copy and paste the award on your blog.Link back to the blogger who gave you the award.
  • Pick your five favorite blogs with less than 200 followers who deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog to let them know they have received the award.
  • Hope that the five blogs chosen will keep spreading the love and pass it on to five more blogs.
Only thing here, instead of five I've chosen seven wonderful bloggers whom I would love to pass on the 'Liebster Blog Award' - simply because there are too many talented bloggers out there that makes it so difficult to stop at just five! Please do takeout time to visit their interesting blogs and the mouth-watering recipes! In no particular order they are - 

Efty from Dream of Cakes
Suchi from Kitchen Karma 
Eri from It all Tastes Greek to Me 
Lin from LinsFood 
Vineetha from Ruchi 
Little Mommy from Little Mommy, Big Appetite 
Kristi from Living Unbound
Please do accept the awards and spare some time to send them out to your favorite bloggers and help this yarn of affection weave a lovely circle of friends in blogland!

Now moving on to my recipe for today - it is a savory Cottage Cheese muffin that I rustled up a couple of evening ago and was a hit among my snack-hungry crowd!It looked good (forgive my photos though - they might not vouch for that!), tasted good and had all good things inside and best of all,they are veritable cloisters for hiding whichever kind of veggie you would want to disguise and feed your family, specially kids;) So onto my recipe and let me know if you liked and enjoyed it - after giving a try, that is!

Savory Cottage Cheese Muffins
You will need:
Potato - 1 or 2, skinned and boiled in a little salt water till soft enough to be mashed.
All purpose flour - 1 and 1/2 cups
Melted butter - 5 tablespoons
Cottage Cheese - 1 16 oz. tub (roughly 430 gms)
Baking soda - 1 and 1/2 teaspoons
2 large eggs

Onions - Finely sliced
Garlic cloves - 2, finely minced
Spring onions - 1/2 cup, roughly chopped
Green peppers/Bell peppers - 1/2 cup, chopped
Cooked sweet corn - 1/2 a cup
Sun-dried tomatoes or fresh tomatoes - 1/2 a cup, chopped
Fresh cilantro - finely chopped
Green chillies - Finely chopped

Pinch of salt
Freshly crushed black pepper
Cheddar/Mozzarella cheese - 2 cups, shredded 
Tomato ketchup (optional)
Cupcake liners

How I made it:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a muffin tin with the cupcake liners.

2. In a large bowl, add the cottage cheese, eggs and melted butter and whisk with a hand whisk or an electric beater till smooth. Next add in the Baking soda and then the flour in batches, taking care not to form lumps. 

3. Mash the potato with a potato masher or with the back of a spoon and season with some salt and black pepper. When the flour batter is smooth, add the mashed potatoes and beat once again to combine everything together.

4. Next add in the onions, garlic, green chilies, peppers and tomatoes. Mix together and then add the spring onions and chopped cilantro. Add some more salt and black pepper and check the seasoning till perfect.

5. In the muffin tins, pour one spoon of batter first. Top with a spurt of tomato ketchup and then cover the ketchup with another spoon of the batter. lastly smear the top generously with the shredded cheese. Do the same for all the muffins till all of the batter is used up.
 6. Bake for about 20-22 minutes till the cheese on top melts and turns golden brown. Insert a toothpick to see if the inside is cooked and when done, serve hot. The tomato ketchup will flavor up the inside of the muffins and the cheese will leave a lingering savoriness in the mouth for long!Enjoy!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Chicken Crepe Rolls - and a discourse on keeping healthy!

I am slowly and steadily inching towards my 100th post. Taking a peek at the archives, you might let out a teenie-weenie smirk - what's so great is reaching a 100th post in 2 years?!?!
 I know the figure is nothing great but the actual greatness lies in the spirit of discovery that magically ascended on me during this fulfilling journey.I knew by habit and genes how to cook and I used to write sometimes too.But I never knew that I could meet so many people all over the world and even make friends with them with whatever little I knew! I mean, if you go by those statistics, our grandmothers should have ruled the world!But then, they did not have blogs at that time.And even if they managed to scribble their notes in little leather diaries at the fag end of a tired day, how could they have ever shared it with people across the world!So I guess, they must be pretty contented, sitting somewhere high up and flashing toothless grins, seeing us  try so earnestly to carry our legacies and recipes, forward.
Which brings me back to the world that we are in right now. A world that is fast and furious, and a world that leaves us so little time to actually put a whole-mindedness to the things that we cook and bake, unless of course it is our bread and butter.And hence all that we now look out for is something that cooks fast!It is the demand of the day, so you just can't help joining the fray but what needs attention is whether we are having our daily dose of nutrients or not. I find myself worrying very frequently over whether I'm planning and providing the essential nutrients in my family's daily diet.Now, it is very tough to plan such things - specially when you have umpteen things jumping on your head everyday!So what I try and do is grab the freshest produce available and cook loads of that!And maintain a fine balance between greens and animal protein, with the scales tilting a bit on the greener side. Since animal protein is easy to cook and 'fast' too,our general tendency is to go for that leaving out the greener side too often.But believe me, you just cannot stay healthy without your greens!
 Sorry for the discourse guys - I know that was long!But just feel the importance of greens in our lives now and where else to put emphasis on that other than my dear blog!For today's post, I'm sharing my recipe for Chicken Crepe Rolls. I know you must be thinking - chicken after all this banter?!? To ease out all contradictions, this roll is filled up with juicy and succulent veggies along with bits of chicken and you can even make it vegan by putting off the chicken.Turned out to be a great snack the first time I laid this out on the table - so do give this a try sometime!Till next time, stay healthy and stay green!

Sending this recipe to 'Full Plate Thursday' at dear Miz Helen's cute cottage!!

Chicken Crepe Rolls
You will need:
For the crepes:
All purpose flour - 2 cups
1 large egg
Warm milk - 1/2 a cup
Warm water - 1 cup
Pinch of salt
Pinch of crushed black pepper

For the filling:
Cooked chicken strips - 1 cup (You may use boneless pieces of chicken as well)
Spring onions - 1 cup, chopped
Sweet green peas - 1/2 a cup
Onions - 1 whole, chopped
Garlic cloves - 2, finely minced
Bell peppers - Julienned
Cook sweet corn - 1/2 a cup
Shredded carrots - 1 cup
Tomato Ketchup - 2 tablespoons
Soy Sauce - 1 teaspoon
Pinch of salt,
Freshly crushed black pepper - 1/2 a teaspoon

Canola/vegetable oil - 1 and 1/2 tablespoons, for the filling and 2 tablespoons for frying the crepes. Alternately, you can also use butter to fry the crepes.

How I made it:
1. For the crepes, combine flour, eggs, milk, water, salt and black pepper and whisk nicely with a hand whisk or a fork. The batter should have a pouring consistency and if it becomes too thick, feel free to add more warm water till the crepes are thin and fine.

2. Prepare the batter and leave to rest for 10-15 mins. Prepare the filling in the meantime. Heat oil in a pan and add the minced garlic, onions, bell peppers and carrots and saute. When the onions are pinkish and carrots have softened up, add the spring onions, green peas and cooked sweet corn and give another quick mix.

3. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper. Add the soy sauce and turn the veggies over. when they are nicely cooked through, put off the flame and add the tomato ketchup. Give another quick mix so that the veggies are coated well in the ketchup.

4. To fry the crepes, take a non-stick skillet and add a teaspoon of oil/butter to the skillet and smear it all around till the skillet is well-coated. Take one spoon of the batter and pouring on the skillet, swirl the skillet with your other hand so that the batter is spread out evenly over the pan and forms a thin, round crepe.The first crepe may turn out to be a disaster, but do not be disheartened. The first one is generally the trial one and helps you decide the consistency.

5. Once the batter coats the pan, allow it to cook on one side. Lift with your spatula to see if one side is cooked. Now take a spoonful of the filling and arrange it in a straight line on the corner of the crepe towards your side of the pan. That done, roll over the crepe gently with your spatula so that the filling is encased by the crepe and forms a nice roll. 
6. Carry on doing the same for all your crepes. Remember to smear the skillet with oil/butter before you turn out each new crepe - that helps keep the skillet greasy and the crepe does not stick to the surface. enjoy this as a snack or even a meal - it can be quite heavy with all those veggies and chicken and eggs inside.But it will be a lot of fun too!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Homemade Fish-O-Fillet - for that simple taste of home!

Ever since I left high school and started college, I learned to leave the smug comfort of home and adjust with whatever came my way. College offered me residential accommodation on campus in a room barely spacious enough to squeeze past the sides after our beds had been placed.A table with cold steel legs and a cheap wood facade and a bookcase with shutters was all that we had.And a chair which served as my impromptu wardrobe!All through the week, my attire would get flung and strewn on that chair and in the weekends, I would wash my clothes, dry them and fold each one neatly on that very chair.I never envisioned keeping clothes in my bookcase - looked so odd!Hence the chair was my only way out.
 After I graduated, I got a job offer in a city farther away from home.Which meant more wanton existence in the times to come!Rightfully so, I moved into rented accommodations not having the money to occupy an entire place on my own and shared rooms with friends - some dapper, some wanton, some plain non-caring, some friends for life!Whichever way it was, I tried my best to fit in wherever I managed to land. But the instant I would start to believe that things were now on track, someone would change jobs or plan to get married or move to some other place and eventually move out - changing the whole nice setting once again! At last, fed up with these short-term ever-changing arrangements, I decided to return to my home city and to my home.
 I switched jobs and bags and baggage in tow, gleefully returned home. To the sweet comfort of my home, to the loving company of my parents.Only to step into the next phase of my life within a couple of months. And another new home!Bit by bit, I started growing familiar with the new place and the new people and as time went by, I started setting up things in my new home my way. Only to be met with another big change - this time across oceans!I still struggled to call someplace my own.
When I traveled to a new country and walked into a new accommodation, my eyes met a vast empty carpeted room with a wide window looking out to a green well-manicured lawn outside. The adjoining room was a similar view, albeit smaller in size and that tepid summer day, I remember it awash with dazzling sunshine! I rushed to the other room which was even smaller in dimension but very cozily placed with a glass door leading to a timbered balcony. It overlooked a beautiful lake shadowed with swaying trees on all sides.It stole my heart and the realization that it all belonged to me took time to seep in!I busied myself in setting things up my way - in the kitchen, in the den, in our bedrooms and the washroom.And finally, I felt at peace - peace that I could buy those lovely calla lilies and set them up in the long-necked vase by the window, peace that I could arrange the fruits in the cute wicker basket on the counter-top and peace, that I could finally make a place look like I live in there!

Speaking of adjustments, I will now post my recipe for the day and it is my homemade version of Fish-O-Fillet. I love the Fish-O-Fillet they sell at MacDonalds, but something tells me that it is always wise to avoid too much store-bought fried food unless faced with absolutely dire circumstances!Hence I tried putting together my own version of this tasty snack, with a few touches of my own like the mashed potato and veggie mix-up for a more filling snack. Check it out and let me know if it has been worth.Till then, have fun!

Sending this recipe to 'Full Plate Thursday' at dear Miz Helen's cute cottage!!

Homemade Fish-o-Fillet
You will need:
For the fillet:
Tilapia fillets - 2
Black pepper
Salt to taste
Flour - 4 teaspoons
Water - 6-7 teaspoons
Breadcrumbs - 2 tablespoons
Canola oil - for frying the fillets

For the mashed potato and veggie mix-up:
Potatoes - 2 whole
Onions - 1 whole, finely sliced
Green peppers/ Red peppers -Julienned
Garlic cloves - 2, finely minced
Spring onions - Finely chopped
Green chilies - Finely chopped
Salt to taste
Freshly ground Black Pepper
Butter - 1 and 1/2 tablespoons

Fresh bread - 4 slices (You can also use Burger buns or whichever is more appealing to you)
Tomato ketchup

How I made it:
1. To prepare the mashed potatoes, skin the potatoes, cube them into smaller chunks and boil in water or microwave on high, till the potatoes become flaky. Once done, mash with a potato masher or with the back of a spoon till it becomes a smooth paste.

2. In a pan, melt the butter and when fully melted, add the finely minced garlic and chopped green chilies. saute for a minute and then add the sliced onions and peppers.Next add the spring onions, salt and black pepper and cook till the onion becomes translucent.

3. At this point, add in the mashed potato. Mix everything together very well and when done, check for the salt. Add a bit more salt and black pepper powder, if required.Put off the flame and keep aside.

4.To fry the fillets, defrost the Tilapia fillets and rub salt and black pepper evenly on both sides. I usually prefer to halve each half of the fillet for a bite-size piece, but you can use one whole half as well.

5. In a bowl, add the flour and water and mix together well to bring to a viscous consistency - the mix should be thin enough to just hold on but should not drip.season with some salt and black pepper.

6. In a plate, lay out the breadcrumbs and season it too with some salt and pepper. In a skillet, heat up the oil for frying the fillets. When the oil is hot enough, dip the fillets in the flour mixture and then coat on both sides with the breadcrumbs. Finally, fry the coated fish fillets in the hot oil till golden brown on both sides.
 7. To serve the dish, lightly toast 4 slices of plain white bread. You may use wheat bread or Burger buns as you prefer. Lay down one slice of bread and spread out some mashed potato and veggie mix-up to cover the surface of the bread. Next top it with a fillet. Dot it with some tomato ketchup and then put on another toasted slice on top. Do the same for the other two slices of bread as well and your filling homemade Fish-o-Fillet is ready!