Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas cookies continues...

Here comes another Christmas treat in my cookie series.

Pinwheel Cookies
Zebra cookies
Gifting home baked cookies is the great way to celebrate these holidays. But why settle for one type of cookies when you can easily have many ?

One base
+   Some
=    Bourbon biscuits
   Choco cookies
   Pinwheel cookies
   Zebra cookies

Doesn't the above equation reminds you the old chemistry class or Maths Theorem class ?
This is the secret formula for my Christmas cookie treats. By keeping the bourbon biscuit recipe as my base recipe I did little variation and did 3 more kind of cookies. Thanks to Nithu's kitchen, the Bourbon biscuit now got two more little sisters, Pinwheel cookies and Zebra cookies.

For both the cookies, I used two coloured cookie dough with single recipe.

Ingredients :

One layer -- the chocolate layer the ingredients same as the choco cookies.
Second layer -- Plain one, except the cocoa powder and instant coffee.

Preparation  :
--- Prepare the two separate dough as mentioned in the choco cookies. Don't make the dough  more soft. Play with water and make sure all the crumbs are held together and knead the dough.
--- Wrap both the dough separately and refrigerate it for an hour.

*** Click here to find the recipe and the method to prepare the dough

Method - for Pinwheel cookies
--- Preheat the oven to 350 F
--- After an hour, take both the dough out from the fridge, unwrap them.
--- Take either one of the dough, divide the dough into two equal parts. Roll one dough to 3-4 mm thickness on a parchment paper and make approximately  10" x 8 " rectangle.
--- Follow the same  procedure for another color dough and make another rectangle.
--- Place rolled white dough on to the chocolate dough, press gently to make an even layer.
--- From one end, start rolling the rectangle dough tightly and form a log. Wrap the log and refrigerate again for an hour.
--- Follow the same step for the rest of the dough.
--- Take the dough and cut 1/4 inch thick slices. Now you can see nice two coloured swirls.
--- Place them on the cookie sheet and bake it for 10 - 12 minutes.
--- Once baked, cool it and put it in air tight container.

I did not roll tightly the first set of dough and also did not refrigerate it. So the dough was little flimsy and I was not able to cut the log properly. This led me to Zebra cookies.

Here comes the method for making these cookies.

--- Since the log was flimsy I was not able to cut the dough log in proper round. So I cut the log  to 1/2 inch  plus thickness.
--- Then cut the 1/2inch dough vertically, flattened it and formed a round shape. I got uneven color on the flattened uncooked cookie.
--- Made some impression using the fork, sprinkled some raw sugar. Placed on the cookie sheet and baked them at 350 F at 10 - 12 minutes.

These cookies were a big hit, my husband still asks me how I made the patchy effect on the Zebra cookies and the double swirl effect on the Pinwheel cookies.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas choco cookies

When I think of Deepavali, the first thing strikes my mind is the fresh smell of new clothes, next comes the smoke of crackers and different kind of sweets and savories. When I think of Christmas, it is decorations, Christmas tree, exchanging gifts and baking delicious cookies and cakes. It is just 4 days to Christmas and I like to drive through to see the light decorations in the night. It is very nice to see the houses, malls and the streets decorated with hundreds and thousands of lights.

My holiday celebration started from the Thanksgiving day. Windows are decorated with the cute multi coloured  LED lights and a kutti Christmas tree as a center piece of attraction. As a final part of the celebration, here comes the Christmas treat.

Baking cookies and cakes at home is a holiday tradition. Ginger bread, sugar cookies, butter cookies and cookies cut into various shapes related to holiday themes, fruit cakes... So many varieties.

Choco cookies
Infact, these choco cookies are ' little sister ' of the Bourbon biscuits, which I tried from Nithu's Kitchen. I used the same recipe, instead of filling the cream in between the two biscuits I used it to decorate on top of each cookie.

Ingredients :

1 cup -- All Purpose Flour
1/4 cup -- Butter
1/2 cup -- Sugar
1/2 tsp -- Instant Coffee Powder**
1/2 tsp -- Baking Soda
1/2 tsp -- Baking Powder
2 tbs -- Cocoa
1/2 tsp -- Vanilla Extract
4 - 5 tbs -- Milk
** Instant coffee powder is optional. But always try to use instant coffee are freshly brewed coffee when you are using chocolate in any recipe. This will enhance the chocolate flavour more.

--- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
--- Mix the sugar and butter along with the vanilla extract.
--- Sieve all the dry ingredients (Flour, Coco powder, Baking powder, Baking soda) except the instant coffee.
--- To the dry mixture, add the instant coffee. If using fresh brewed coffee, you can add along with the sugar butter mixture.
--- Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients and mix well. If required add milk half to one tsp at a time to the mixture and form a dough.
--- Take the dough and roll them to 3- 4 mm thickness on a plastic sheet and cut them according to desired shape and bake it at 350 F for about 12-15 minutes.
--- Once the cookies are out, cool them completely before doing any decoration on it.


This is a very simple cookie. To have a celebration touch I decorated these cookies with the store bought Icing tube, resembling the snow effects.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Homemade frozen roti

Are you a kind of person, who does preparatory works on weekends and do a little work on weekdays, specially when it comes for food?

My Chita Mami used to do lot like this when I was staying with her in Chennai. She will cut all the vegetables required for the week, prepare Idli / Dosa batter ready, sometimes she also make Milagu kuzhambu, puli kachal, tomato thokku for Monday's lunch. This preparatory work always make our work easy. She is very smart and fast and in 1.30 hrs she will make sambar / Rasam, curry, sadam for lunch, breakfast. Also pack 3 set of lunch boxes, get ready herself.  Everything used to be very easy and fast because of the already cut veggies.

Frozen roti is one such thing.

Though I am not lazy to cook and have plenty of time, I still have the frozen roti in stock for those emergencies. This will be very handy whenever we come home late and are either too bored or tired to cook. I used to buy my supply of frozen rotis from the grocery store. While it was cheap and convenient, it felt a bit 'heavy' and I could never eat more than 2 rotis in a meal. I then realised why shouldn't I try the same at home.

Ingredients :
Roti dough - prepare as per your taste
12" x 12" size Cut Polythene sheets
Some oil

Method :
--- Make the roti dough and press the rotis as usual.
--- Take a  polythene sheet, oil it on a side. Place the roti on oil side.
--- Brush some oil on the other side and place ne more polythene sheet.
--- The pressed dough should be sandwiched between the sheets.
--- Make as many roti as you want and repeat the same procedure.
--- Put all the sandwiched rotis in a ziplock bag and throw it in the freezer.

This will stay upto 2 months, I tried many times.

Whenever you want to cook, these rotis are no need to be thawed. Just take it from the freezer remove the sheet and put them on hot pan and cook it. If you keep it out then it will stick on to the sheet.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Coconut Macaroons

Yesterday was my husband's birthday. I made couple of dishes and gave a sweet surprise to him.
Banana cake with Fondant Icing topping and Coconut Macaroons

I wanted to serve this lovely white macaroons with a nice cup of coffee on birthday morning. But I ended up doing that the day before his birthday.  You want to know why? It was a lovely cold white Saturday morning. It was snowing outside, first snow fall of the year. The white crisp snow very much reminded me the white fluffy flaky coconut macaroons.  How can anyone control the temptations ?

I found this lovely recipe in a magazine that I was reading at the library. I frequent the food and health related magazine section in the library and always have a  piece of paper handy in case I come across an interesting recipe. This one came that way. But this recipe is special to me. This had a nice story behind it.

A 10 year old girl, name Sabrina Shefer doing 5th Grade from Minooka, Illinois bakes these Coconut macaroons for a cause. She bakes these lovely macaroons and other cookies the earlier day and goes to farmer markets early morning along with her brother and sell them. And all the money they earn goes to the charity. How sweet...

What a fool am I,  forgot to note the magazine name and the charity organisation that she works for. But clearly taken the recipe of hers :(

Ingredients :

2 1/2 cup -- Unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup -- All purpose flour
2/3 cup -- Condensed Milk
1 tsp -- Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp -- Baking powder
1/8tsp -- Salt
1/2 cup -- Nuts (optional)

Method :
--- Preheat the oven to 350 F
--- Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and condensed milk, Vanilla extract thoroughly without any lumps
--- To the mixture add the shredded coconuts, nuts and mix well. Make sure all the coconut are well coated with the flour mix.
--- The mixture will be more sticky.
--- Just take a small heap of coconut mixture and place it on the greased cookie sheet. Don't make any balls out of it.
--- If using ice cream scooper, it will be well and good. If you trust your hands, better grease a little with butter and do it, so that it will not stick to your fingers.
--- Bake the macaroons at 350 F for about 15 to 20 minutes, until you see golden brown color on the edges.

--- Don't bake it for too long, the coconut will start to burn at the bottom, check for the golden brown colour carefully.

My husband was so happy and truly surprised. Both enjoyed the chill morning with the coconut macaroons and hot coffee

UPDATE 20-Dec-10
Oops, I forgot to mention about adding vanilla extract earlier. Have corrected it now.
Thanks to 'Anonymus' for pointing it out.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bourbon biscuits

A glass of warm milk and plate of freshly baked Bourbon biscuits, Oh its great !
Bourbon biscuit is one of our favorite biscuits from the childhood. We all grew up eating this biscuit. Hope everybody agree with me. Even last week we bought two pack from an Indian Grocery and finished it on our way back from the shop. FYI, the distance from the shop to our home is only 2 miles. We can't stop eating after having one. I like the large crystal sugar on top of the biscuit.

I used to wonder how they make this biscuits. Even in my dreams I never thought of baking one by myself. 
But I did it, I baked my all time favorite Bourbon yesterday.
Thanks to Nithu, she commented in couple of my earlier posts. When I visited her space the first post I saw in 'Nithus's Kitchen' was Bourbon biscuit. Can't believe by myself, can we do these biscuits at home? If yes, then why shouldn't I try at once ?

Whenever I am trying a new recipe, always I will call my husband and tell him . About this Bourbon, I didn't give him any clue. Wanted to surprise him. Quickly went to the kitchen, took all the ingredients and started working on the biscuits. Since its our favorite one, I doubled all the measures.
Did a couple of changes from the original recipe.
**Instead of granulated sugar, I used Brown sugar.
** And I used 1/4 cup Vegetable oil and 1/4 cup butter. This is because I had only one butter stick, I needed 1/4 for cream, so...
Rest all I followed the same from the original recipe For the recipe, click here

The biscuits turned out perfect. Indeed my husband was little shocked on seeing this. He was so happy and announced that from now on he is going to stop buying outside. How is it !

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Healthy quick snack

First flurries of this season drizzling outside and I am feeling chilly and cold inside. Wanted to munch something hot to warm up myself from the cold. The first thing came to mind are Pakodas.

Sometimes if it is raining, my mom will make crunchy hot fried items like Pakodas, Bhajjis and Vathal. We all sit and enjoy eating under soft glow of candle light, this is because of the Power cut in India. As you all know if its electricity department see a lightning or a thunder they will switch off the power. Oh God, when this is going to change in India?

Now coming to my story, I wanted to eat hot crunchy pakodas at the same time I wanted it to be healthy. This again because of the spark from the sudden flash on Sunday. Didn't you read that yet, click here to know more about it.

I baked the pakodas, which I tried from Trendy Relish. To make little more healthier I added some vegetables in it. The recipe is very simple and easy. Hardly I spent 10 minutes to prepare and 20 to 25 min for baking.

Ingredients :

1cup -- Chickpea/Besan Flour
3 tbsp -- Rice Flour
I no -- Medium size onion
1 cup -- cut vegetables**
2 no -- Green chillies
Salt as per taste

** I used some green and orange bell peppers, Cabbage.
I stopped using baking powder for this, as this is baking well for me. But in the actual recipe they used 3/4tsp of baking powder. So the choice is yours.

Method :
--- Preheat the oven to 400 F
--- Mix the dry ingredients well.
--- Add cut vegetables, green chillies and onions to the dry mixture .
--- To the mixture add 2 tsp of oil.
Oil will give some crisp effect to the pakodas. You can very will omit this.
--- Add water little by little to the mixture, until everything binds well. If its little watery no problem, add some more flour and adjust.
--- Line the cookie sheet with Parchment paper, otherwise the batter will stick into it. I spoiled one cookie sheet like this. Experience talk :))
--- On the sheet, take the batter in small portions and arrange them. No need to give more space in between each uncooked pakodas, since its not going to expand like cookies. But make sure they are not touching each other,
--- Using pastry brush, brush some oil on the uncooked pakodas. This is get a nice golden brown color on the pakodas
--- Bake it in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. After 10 minutes, take the sheet out and turn the pakodas and brush some oil and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes.
--- After 15 minutes healthy crunchy snack is ready to serve.
This is one of the best way to make kids to eat vegetables.

Whole Wheat Pizza

Did anyone say NO to pizza ? That too if it is made of cent percent healthy stuffs.

Last Sunday, I took the kitchen cleaning job. Though I live in America, still my litchen is very Indian. Like our mom does in her kitchen, I changed all the kitchen cabinet papers and put them a new one. When I was doing so, I came across an article from a health magazine, which I was using to put inside the cabinets.
'7 Steps to eat clean and healthy food in the dirty world'
  1. Be a (Mostly) Vegetarian
  2. Eat Organic
  3. Skip the White stuff
  4. Count the ingredients
  5. Identify it
  6. Eat the whole thing
  7. Ban the brew
Suddenly, a light flashed inside me. Being a vegetarian, at least I should follow some simple steps to stay healthy. This Whole wheat pizza is the one spark from that flash.
This is 100% whole wheat pizza with lots of green vegetables and cheese. In my dictionary, Pizza means cheese and cheese means Pizza. Everybody might think that this girl has put this much cheese on her pizza and still calling healthy. Oh yes, the main highlight in this Pizza is the cheese. Its a gluten free, cholesterol free with 0g trans fat. I found this amazing cheese alternative from 'Whole Foods' organic shop.

You can find lot different flavoured cheese alternative in this brand. I am a big fan of this. These cheese alternatives are best substitute for the fatty cheese.
Twice I bought whole wheat pizza crust, wanted to try the same at home and the result was very encouraging. I would like to share the recipe, so you all can also enjoy a healthy comfort cheese pizza.

Ingredients :

For Pizza Base:
3 & 3/4 cup -- Whole wheat flour
1 pack -- Dry yeast
2 tsp -- Olive oil
1/2 tsp -- honey / sugar
1 tsp -- Salt

For Topping
2 to 3 cups -- Rice shreds cheese alternative**
1/2 cup -- finely chopped green and yellow bell pepper**
1/2 cup -- finely chopped onion**
1/2 cup -- sliced tomatoes**
1/4 cup -- Organic tomato basil sauce**
**Above are the things which I used, you can always change or add your style of toppings.

--- For pizza base, take a cup of  Luke warm water to activate the dry yeast. The water should be neither hot or cold. I do not have any food thermometer at home. To activate the yeast I take half a cup of water. Put it on the stove for about 30 - 40 seconds and switch off the heat and add remaining half cup water. This is my small trick to activate the yeast. If it works to you, share it with me.
--- In the warm water add the full pack of yeast and honey / sugar. Let this mixture stand for 5 minutes.
Warm water is to activate the yeast and Sugar/ Honey is the food for the yeast.
--- Now you can see a thick layer of foam over the water, if not probably the yeast is not activated. Better luck next time, you have to try again with fresh pack.
--- When the yeast is ready to use, mix it with the wheat flour + salt. Add water in little, as you start kneading the dough.
---  Once the dough is ready, apply the oil over the dough and cover it with a damp towel for couple of hours.
--- This is the time span yeast will take to grow. After an hour you can see the whole dough has doubled in size.
--- Knead the dough and again keep it for an hour.
--- Pizza dough is ready to roll. Cut the whole dough into four quarters.
You can make a 9" pizza from a quarter, if you  are not going to use all, take unused dough apply olive oil and put it in a zip log bag and throw it inside the freezer, it will last for minimum 2 month.
--- Roll the dough to 1/4" thick, add the toppings and bake it in the oven for 425 F for 12 to 15 minutes.
Yummy, cheesy, healthy pizza will come out of the hot oven.

Now tell me, did anyone say NO to this organic healthy pizza ?