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Friday, May 31, 2013

Eggless Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

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Its been a couple of weeks now that its been raining. The skies are gray again and sun plays hide and seek throughout the day. The temperatures have dropped again reminding us of winter. But its still officially Spring or Summer..?. I want to believe that. The little boy had his `Spring holidays` a couple of weeks ago. Since his dad had been busy we had decided not to venture into any trips this time. So overall Spring holidays…enthusiastic preschooler … rains ..That adds up to a bored preschooler.

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The toys didn't seem to appeal to him anymore. The puzzles did not excite him either. All the books had been read for the umpteenth time. He was and is never interested in coloring.
One afternoon he suddenly came up and said ..’’Mummy lets make something’’. I assumed he was talking about crafts and said ..’’Ok then get the glue and paper ready’’. He rolled his eyes and said ..”Noooo lets bake something!” . Now I was thrilled. Not that this was the first time. We used to cook together something very often before his lil sister arrived. We usually stuck to goodies involving store bought puff pastry or making cookies. He simply loves rolling dough and cutting out shapes. I am grinning as I write this realizing that my little boy shares my interest for cooking.

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But this time he had his mind set on carrot cake which happens to be his favorite. So me and my little helper in the kitchen baked these carrot cupcakes while his little sister napped. He was in charge of mixing the flours and sifting and whisking the batter while I took care of the measurements and the oven. They made perfect treats for my afternoon tea and his milk.
We used store bought fondant carrot decorations. I can imagine they can also be easily be made at home using colored fondant.  But you could also use any kind of decorations of your choice.

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Eggless carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes about 6-8 medium sized cupcakes

 For the carrot cupcakes -

Things you need -

1 cup or about 140 gms All purpose flour
1 to 1.5 cups or 100 gms grated carrots
1 cup or 200 gms  sugar
3/4 cup or 170 ml oil
2 tsp cornflour or cornstarch or custard powder
2 tbsp cold milk
1 tsp vinegar, i used apple cider vinegar
one fourth cup water
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
half tsp salt

How its done -

1. Preheat oven to 180 deg Celsius. Line the muffin tray with liners and keep aside.
2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch, salt together and sift them together.
3. In a separate bowl whisk the oil and sugar until smooth and creamy for about 2-3 minutes. Add the milk, vinegar, water and mix well.
4. Now add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and mix well.
5. Add the grated carrots to the batter and mix.
6. Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, fill the cupcake liners with the batter until they are 2/3rds full.
7. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick or skewer inserted in one of the cupcakes comes out clean. Allow them to cool on a board or wire rack.

Notes -

- Original recipe called for use of cinnamon and ginger but I skipped them as I prefer plain ones. You could use them too.
- Chopped nuts and raisins can also be used.
- Baking time may vary, so keep an eye after 12 minutes.

For the icing - 

Things you need -

100 gms cream cheese
30 gms butter, at room temperature
50 gms icing sugar, adjust as per liking.
1-2 tsp honey, optional
fondant decorations or sprinkles, optional

How its done -

1. Beat the cream cheese with the whisk for a minute or two until slightly creamy.
2. Add the butter, sugar and whisk well for 3-4 minutes. Add the honey for the last 1 minute.
3. Spread the icing on the cupcakes using a spatula or use icing bag with desired nozzle. See notes.
4. Decorate with sprinkles or fondant decorations.

Notes -

- Honey lends a distinct flavour to the icing. If you don't like it, you may skip it or use vanilla extract instead.
- If you wish to use an icing bag with star nozzle etc, chill the icing in the refrigerator for about 30 mins before using to help retain the stiffness.
- The icing can be stored for upto 3 days in the fridge in an air tight container.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Beet and Apple salad with Harissa dressing

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I am not a big fan of beet roots. But I can eat them bear them. Beets would perhaps be the last thing I would pick up on a buffet. For some reason, my husband always buys it if he is the one doing groceries, even if its not on `the list`. There is no point arguing over a beet root ..right..? So I just I shove it in the fridge deep enough to pretend it doesnt exist that I don't notice it for a few days. As the end of the week approaches, I am reminded by the wilting and sad looking beet that it needs to be used up soon. I am not motivated to try anything other than the usual palya (stir fry ).

You must be getting doubts about this recipe already :-)..But wait..
A few days ago, I happened to try this beet and apple salad at a local restaurant which wasn't just bearable but it was delicious. I guess the combination with apple and the spicy harissa dressing did the trick.
I recreated the salad at home and it was very quick to put together including the homemade harissa dressing.
So..beets are not that bad after all!

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Beet and Apple salad with Harissa dressing

Serves 2-3

Things you need -

1 small beetroot, cleaned, peeled and grated
1 medium apple, cleaned, peeled and grated

For the dressing -
1.5 tbsp sambal oelek or red chilli paste
1 tbsp tomato puree
half tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
salt as per taste. Remember sambal oelek contains some amount of salt.
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
a bunch of coriander leaves, coarsely chopped, about a handful

How its done -

1. Prepare the dressing. Grind all the ingredients together in a blender until it forms a slightly coarse mixture. Adjust salt, lemon juice content if required.
2. Toss the grated apple and beet root together and dress it just before serving.
3. Garnish with coriander leaves.

Notes -

The measurements mentioned above for the dressing make around 50-75 ml and are just enough for 2-3 servings.
The dressing can also be prepared in bulk by scaling up the ingredients accordingly. It can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Light(er) Veggie Pasanda with Jeera Rice | Mixed vegetables in a creamy, nutty sauce with Cumin rice

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I am guessing that there could easily be dozens of varieties of curries possible. And I am just talking about Indian curries. Those which use nuts, without nuts, with and without coconut, yoghurt, tomato etc etc. Their use is so versatile that they could be served with rice, or any flatbread. We have tried curries with regular sandwich bread as well and it tastes just as good!

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I have grown up eating mostly south Indian curries. A meal with a north Indian curry was usually limited to dining in restaurants. Perhaps the only north Indian curry that my mom used to make was Palak Paneer. As I started to cook, my liking to north Indian cuisine naturally made me try out various saag, tikka masalas, shahi curry and the likes.
I still occasionally cook curries with a rich base such as those with cream and nuts. But recently discovered the use of Greek yoghurt in curries that mimics the presence of cream without lending those many calories.
I was quite impressed by the results as the texture is almost the same. Taste wise its just as great, except that it tends to taste a bit more tangy and hence the quantity of tomato has to be reduced than usual.

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Light(er) Veggie Pasanda | Mixed vegetables in a spicy, creamy, nutty sauce.

Serves 2-3

Things you  need -

2 cups of chopped vegetables. I used carrots, beans, potatoes and cauliflower.
1 medium onion, finely chopped or grated
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced fine
1 tsp ginger paste or grated ginger
2-3 pods of green cardamom, skin removed
2 tsp coriander seeds
3 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chilli powder
1 inch piece of cinnamon
2 tbsp tomato puree or 1 small tomato finely chopped
half cup ground almonds or cashews
150 gms Greek yoghurt or hung regular yoghurt **
2-3 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
a handful almond flakes, for garnish, optional
a bunch of coriander leaves, for garnish

How its done -

1. Boil enough water in a large skillet. Add the carrots, beans and potatoes and boil for 2 minutes. Add the cauliflower and boil for another 1-2 minutes and switch off heat. The vegetables must be crunchy and not mushy. Drain water, season the boiled vegetables with some salt and keep aside.
2. Dry roast the cumin, cardamom, cinnamon and coriander seeds until fragrant. Grind them into a fine powder.
2. Heat oil in a skillet. Add onions and fry for 5 minutes until they start to turn slightly brown. Add garlic and ginger and stir for another minutes or two.
3. Add the tomato puree and the ground spice mixture, salt, sugar, chilli powder, ground almonds/cashew and a few tsps of water and cook until the oil starts to separate from the spices.
4. Now add the boiled vegetables, mix well and cook for 3-5 minutes until the vegetables are just done.
5. Switch off heat and stir in the Greek yoghurt. Add a little water or milk if you think the consistency is too thick. *
6. Garnish with coriander leaves and almond flakes. ***

Notes -

* Do not cook the curry after adding the yoghurt. It will curdle. 
** For a richer version, You can use 100-150 ml single cream in place of Greek yoghurt if you wish.
*** Panner cubes can also be added right after adding the yoghurt.

Jeera Rice | Cumin Rice

Serves 2-3

Things you need -

1 cup Basmati rice, washed and soaked in cold water for 15 minutes
2 cups water to cook the rice ****
1 tbsp + 1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp ghee or oil + 1 tsp oil
1 small red onion, sliced
cashew nuts mildly sautéed in a ghee or oil, handful
salt as per taste

How its done -

1. Drain the water and cook the rice on medium heat with 2 cups of water, 1 tbsp cumin seeds and salt. Once the rice is cooked, switch off heat, add a tsp of oil and fluff with a fork and keep aside. **
2. In a small pan heat the ghee or oil. Add the remaining cumin seeds. Once they start to splutter, add the onions and stir for for 2 minutes. Garnish with cashew nuts.

Notes -

**** The Amount of water required could slightly vary depending on the quality of rice. If the rice seems to be uncooked and the water has been absorbed, just add another half cup of water, switch off heat and cover the pan and let it stay on heat for 5 mins. This heat and water is just enough for the rice to get completely cooked.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Black and White Wednesday # 83




I was looking for corn with husks. Couldn't find them in any of the supermarkets. Finally I bought the packed ones. We just boil them in water and season with salt and pepper and butter(which is not good for me). But love them.

Sending this to Food and Clicks, the host for this weeks Black White Wednesday. The event was originally started by Susan and Cindy is now taking care of it.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Shaved Carrot Cucumber salad with fresh coconut and grilled tofu with Thai inspired spicy dressing

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“(24/7) once you sign on to be a mother, that's the only shift they offer.”
Jodi Picoult

All you wonderful mothers out there..Wishing you a very happy Mothers day. Now all mothers deserve to put their feet up once in a while for all the hard work they do. And not just on Mothers Day!

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There are skills you can acquire reading books, learning from others etc. But motherhood..that one does not come with any instructions. Sure you read books, and elders help you out..but you gotta just experience it.  Dont worry..I am not going to write another sentimental post on motherhood.

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This post is going to be a very short one this time. Why?.. Read the quote at the start of the post!
I leave you with this Thai inspired beautiful salad thats quite easy and healthy. The carrot and cucumber shavings provide a nice change to the usual cut or grated version. I must admit…`shaving`the carrots and cucumber was addictive and I just couldnt stop :-). I found it surprisingly fun. The grilled tofu provides great texture and my favourite part was biting into the fresh coconut slices.
The spices in dressing  can be altered to suit your tolerance. I did not have any lemon grass on hand. I could imagine a bit of lemon grass would taste great in the dressing.

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Shaved Carrot and Cucumber salad with fresh coconut and grilled Tofu with Thai inspired dressing

Yield – Serves 2-3

Things you need -

1-2 medium carrots
1 medium cucumber
100 gms extra firm tofu cut into cubes. Or use paneer for a non vegan version.
coconut, sliced into 1 inch pieces
lime wedges, for garnish. optional

For the dressing
1-2 green chillies
3 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil / peanut oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1-2 cloves of garlic
half a tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp brown sugar
salt to taste. Remember there is salt in the soy sauce. Use accordingly.

How its done -

To prepare the dressing
1. Dry roast the cumin seeds on medium heat for about 2-3 minutes. Take care not to burn them.
2. Mix the roasted seeds and all the ingredients for the dressing and grind them in a mixer/blender until a smooth mixture is formed. Add more lemon juice if required. Adjust salt.

To prepare the salad
3. Lightly Marinate the tofu cubes in the dressing just enough to coat them. Best way to do this is to add a tbsp of the dressing plus the tofu cubes in a container. Close the lid and give it a bit of a shake. Keep aside for 15 minutes.
4. Heat a griddle/pan and grill the marinated tofu cubes until they start to turn brown. The time required depends on the heat you are using. It took me about 5 minutes.
5. Peel the Carrots and cucumber into shavings and toss them together into a large bowl with the grilled tofu and coconut pieces
6. Dress the salad just before serving.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Dill And Lentil Rice

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Last week has been rough. That explains why I haven't been able to post any recipes last week.
Both the kids were sick at the same time. That's something any mother dreads. Seeing your little ones suffer is the hardest thing for a mother. When my kids are sick my mind just switches off. I am unable to concentrate on anything. Chores are the last thing on my mind. But things need to get done. So you drag yourself somehow and do what it takes to keep the house running. A great relief is that my husbands workplace is hardly half a mile from our home. Yep…now that's sure a luxury. (Something that made me super jealous while I had to commute for an hour). So he hopped in during lunch break to help me out. Reassuring calls from our parents back in India helped us get through the rough week and it is relieving to see the kids back on their feet.

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On such situations one pot meals come to the rescue to tired and sleep deprived parents. This comforting meal with rice, lentils and greens all thrown in together and takes less than half an hour to get it to the table. 

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Dill and Lentil Rice

Yield - Serves 2-3

Things you need -

1 cup rice
half cup green lentils
a bunch of dill leaves, washed and chopped coarsely. I like to use the stem as well. You can discard it if you like
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 small red onion, sliced
2 cups water to cook rice
1.5 cups vegetable stock
1 tbsp vegetable oil
some pepper, crushed
chilli flakes, as per taste/tolerance
salt as per taste
1 tbsp lemon juice
peanuts, roasted, for garnish, optional
lemon wedges, for garnish, optional

How I made it -

1. Cook the lentils in vegetable stock as per manufacturers instructions. Take care that they dont turn mushy. Season with salt and keep aside. It took me 15 minutes. Avoid using a pressure cooker as the lentils will turn mushy.
2. Meanwhile cook the rice with 2 cups of water.
3. Heat oil in a vessel. Add the minced garlic, onions, dill and stir for a minute.
4. Add the cooked lentils, pepper powder and combine well.
5. Add the cooked rice and salt. Take care while adding salt.  Remember there is already some salt in the lentils from step 1.
6. Add the lemon juice and mix well.
7. Garnish with chilli flakes and roasted peanuts. Serve hot.

Notes -

I highly reccomend adding the roasted peanuts. They provide a delightful texture to the rice.
I used green lentils. You could also use red lentils

This is my entry for this months MLLA being hosted at Sizzling Tastebuds. MLLA has been run for several years by Susan and Lisa is now taking care of it.