Friday, January 28, 2011

Garlic bread

Are you sitting in the couch and wondering what to serve your loved one for the dinner? or Thinking to have something warm and crunchy to fight the bone chilling cold ?
It happens to me more often. I always wanted to cook something different for Karthik and surprise him when he comes back from office. Most of the time, I make something very easy and healthy, so that I can enjoy the food and have less cleaning work.

A couple of days ago I came across the recipe for Garlic bread. Its very simple, easy to make, minimal number of ingredients, no messy cleaning work. Takes less time to prepare this nice crunchy, garlicky bread. And no one can go wrong with this recipe.

Bread slices -- 8 slices***
Garlic -- 2-3 cloves (depending upon the size)
Salted or Unsalted butter -- 1 tbsp
Olive oil -- 2 tbsp
Cilantro --  few leaflets***

*** You can use any kind of bread. I used whole grain white bread.
I wanted a mild taste, so I went with cilantro. If you like you can use any kind of herbs for topping. Parsley, powder onion, dried oregano, etc.

Method :
--- Preheat the oven to 375 F
--- Melt the butter and add olive oil. Grate the garlic and chop the cilantro and add in to the butter oil mixture.
--- Now take the bread and arrange them on a baking sheet. If you like cut the bread diagonally.
--- Brush the butter oil mixture over the bread and bake it for 10 - 12 minutes.
--- After 7 minutes, you just turn the bread and bake for few minutes.
--- VoilĂ , freshly home made Garlic bread ready to serve. 

You can serve this crunchy garlic bread for an evening tea with tomato sauce dipping or with a nice soup for a dinner. Enjoy !!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Spinach Veggie soup

My laptop caught a virus and fell sick a fine morning and it took a week of heroic efforts from my husband and his friend to bring it back to pristine health. Thanks to 'draft' option in the Blogger, I was able to retrieve all the posts that I had completed a week ago. So after a long gap, here comes Spinach Veggie soup to recover any kind illness. Oh come on, Man or machine - soup is the best healing food

I have to admit that I was never crazy about soups. Almost all of my encounters with soups were in the form of ready-made soups, which have dried vegetables in it. I felt these flavours taste the same. Only the colors were different.

I love fresh vegetables. 99% I buy fresh vegetables only. No frozen or tinned stuffs. Now, weekly once you can find a soup in my dinner menu. No more store bought soups. I started making my own chunky fresh veggie soups. I love to have chunks of vegetables in my every spoon. Easy to make, hearty to eat.

Last week, I tried the spinach vegetable soup for my birthday dinner party. Oh, everybody like it.

Ingredients : Serves - 4 person
1 cup --- Chopped vegetables***
1 no --- Medium size onion
2 no --- medium size Roma tomatoes
2 tbsp --- Butter (optional) / Olive oil
1 cup --- spinach
Salt and ground pepper to taste
*** Combination of vegetables will be great for the soup
Carrot, beans, potatoes, peas, celery.

Method :
--- Maximum try to use fresh vegetables than the frozen or canned one.
--- In a sauce pan add the butter and turn the heat to medium.
--- Saute the onions until it turns translucent. Add all the vegetables and cook, until tender.
--- Meanwhile in a pan cook the whole tomato and the spinach leaves with a cup of water. After few minute, the skin tomatoes will shrink and cracks.
--- Take the tomatoes out, cool them and take the skin off.
--- Now, we go to the other pan which is cooking vegetables. Check whether the vegetables are cooked, once done turn the heat off.
--- In a blender, put the tomatoes, cooked spinach with the water and few cooked vegetables less than half quantity and blend it.
--- Turn the heat on, take the sauce pan which is having the cooked vegetables, add the tomato mixture from the blender. The blend mixture give the thickness and texture to the soup.
--- Add 3 cups of water to the mixture and cook for 10 minutes. You can increase or reduce the water accordingly depending upon the soup consistency.
--- Now its time to give little taste to the soup, add freshly ground pepper and salt, cook for 2-3 minutes.
--- Turn off the heat and serve warm with bake pakodas.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pongalo Pongal

Wishing you a very Happy Pongal...

From Jan 11th till yesterday, I was busy in the kitchen. In one week, 2 birthday dinner parties, a 3 day Pongal celebration, lots of different foods, (heavy sigh...). Hope, I will not cook for next two days. How many variety of food ?

This is the second time, I am celebrating Pongal away from my parents and in my apartment. As usual I celebrated with the fullest festivity. Though I missed my home, I did not miss anything from pongal rituals to food. The main highlight was I cooked for a small group of 6 people, including us.

First day, Bhogi pandigai. I cooked Puran poli, Bisibelibath, baked vadai. That very night I had a my kutti friend Kirthana's birthday party, so I helped her mom with the party.

Next day, Pongal, though I started everything a little late, but completed on time. In a hurry, I did almost everything. Put a nice kolam over my stove, decorated the pongal pot (vessel) with turmeric and kumkum. Did pooja to the pongal pot, screamed 'Pongalo pongal' in low tone :))

In our place, we all go and do pooja for Sun God in the open terrace. We take everything from the ground floor to the 2nd floor and do the pooja. We all scream 'Pongalo Pongal' in high tone and thank the Sun God. Here, we did pooja inside our apartment itself and thanked the Sun God.

-- Chakara pongal
-- Venpongal (Rice)
-- Plantain curry
-- Squash curry
-- Curd Pachadi
-- White pumpkin kootu
-- Vadai
-- Kosmalli
Compared to my mom's preparation, my list is very little. She cooks a lot. As always me and my sister are observers and helps her a lot in the kitchen.

Third day, Kanu pongal or mattu pongal. We keep the colored rice in the morning for the crow. This is my favorite festival, (Girly festival). My mom will keep us nalangu in the feet for us.We get new dress and money from my brother and uncles. Some of my uncles will give us the money after the Kanu also.  

I celebrated the kanu in the freezing cold...

Cooked a nice tamarind rice, coconut rice, paysam, applam and aviyal.

Have to wait for 3 more months for next celebration...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mac and cheese cupcakes

A surprise gift from my husband and a silk saree along with sweet parcels from my in-laws, wishes and blessings from my parents, facebook messages, phone calls from friends, microwave oven from Karthik's friends, what else I will ask God on a birthday. Everybody made my day very special.

Since I was busy with the phone calls in the morning, I didn't cook anything for the lunch, did a simple yet delicious kesari. I like kesari a lot, my mom always make kesari on my birthday. I wanted to surprise my husband with the special food for the dinner.

I did a couple of different recipes which I did not tried before. One such recipe is this.
'Mac and cheese cupcakes' - These are cutie little pasta, cheese basket with some veggies in it.

Long time ago, I tried a similar kind of pasta cheese cupcakes in a baked potato basket. It was an experimental recipe, combining two different recipe which I saw in the Food network show. I named the new recipe as 'Potato Pasta Basket', you can find the recipe here. On my birthday I wanted to try the same recipe but wanted to have it simple. So I did cheese cupcakes without Potato basket. This is the Gaida's recipe from Food network program.

Ingredients :

2 cups --- Cooked pasta***
1 cup --- Sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup --- Mozzarella cheese
1 cup --- Cherry tomatoes halved
1 cup --- Spinach chopped nicely
1 cup --- Bread crumbs
Olive oil to drizzle
Salt and Pepper for taste
***Any kind of small shaped pasta, I used 100% wheat crown shaped coloured pasta. Cook the pasta as per the instruction given.

Method :
--- Preheat the oven to 370 F
--- Grease the muffin tray and dust with the bread crumbs. This will help the cupcakes to take out of the pan easily, or else the cheese will stick into the pan a lot.
--- Mix the spinach, tomatoes with salt and pepper and keep it aside. You can use any kind of vegetables in it. Blanched beans, broccoli, zucchini, eggplant ...
--- Fill the half of the muffin pan with cooked pasta.
--- Add some cheese of your favorite on top of the pasta.
--- Now add the mixed veggies over the cheese and again top them with the cheese layer.
--- Over the cheese layer, add left over pastas or veggies if any. Or else top them with the bread crumbs, approximately 11/2 to 2 tsp.
--- Drizzle some olive oil on top of bread crumbs.
--- Final layer again with loads of cheese.
--- This is simply layering different veggies, pasta and cheese inside the small pan.
--- Bake them for 12 - 15 minutes, untill the cheese are melt on top, also you can see golden brown color on sides.
--- Before taking them out, give some time to cool the cupcakes.

Thanks to Gayathri, (Kitchen - The Chef's Paradise), when she called to wish me, she suggested me a key ingredient 'spinach' for this cup cakes, when I was stuck in a confused stage. You can hide more veggies inside the cheese and can make kids to eat. This Mac and Cheese cup cakes are kids friendly dish.
You can also serve these cutie little cupcakes as an appetiser for any party. Easy and different, I got more applause for these cuties !

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More toffee treats

Remember, I did the caramel toffee last week. I tried the same recipe yesterday, with little variations. The result was fantastic. I did two type toffees with the same base recipe.
  1. Nutty toffee bars
  2. Chocolate toffee caramel bars
The base recipe for both the toffees were same.  You can see my toffee recipe here. The only change to the recipe is the use of fondant. After turning off the heat I cooled the caramel mixture for couple of minutes (not cooled completely) and added approximately 2-3 tsps of fondant. I added the fondant in little pieces and mixed well.

Caramel Nutty Bars :

--- Grease the pan and line up with the parchment paper. Grease the paper lightly and let some paper hang out on each sides.
--- Add a cup of roasted cashews into the warm caramel mixture and transfer the mixture onto the greased parchment paper.
--- Once cooled, you can easily cut the caramel into required shape.
--- Since we have used fondant, the caramel will not stick to the knife or to the teeth.
--- The texture of this caramel toffees are entirely different to the earlier one. This toffees are soft, brittle and very much reminds toffees which we enjoyed in our childhood.

Chocolate toffee caramel bars :

--- Grease the pan and the parchment pan.
--- This is a double layer toffee with the caramel base with the chocolate topping.
--- Once you pour the caramel onto the greased pan, pour 1 pack of semi sweet chocolate chips over the caramel.
--- The chocolate chips will melt by the heat of caramel, use a spatula and spread the chocolate covering the caramel.
--- Once the mixture is cooled completely cut the toffees using a buttered knife.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Peanut butter cookies

I like to eat the peanuts only in two dishes - peanut laddu / kadala mittai and in my mom's eggplant kootu. I don't like peanuts in any other dish or in any other form. It doesn't mean that i will not eat or cook foods using peanuts, but those two are my favorite dish.

You know, I stopped eating more chocolates and Ice creams here. Some of the chocolates have peanuts and all the ice creams are topped with peanuts. But I like to see the 'Jif' peanut butter advertisements. Oh, they are very nice and lovely. The kids featuring in those ads will be very cute. Since I like the advertisement, I wanted to taste the butter at least once.

I tried this cookies from  Dhivya's Dil se... blog four days ago. They tasted delicious. The cookies were flaky and soft. Everybody certified that this was the best cookies I ever baked. I baked nearly 50-60 cookies and they were all gone in 48 hours.

Ingredients and Method :
I followed exactly the same from Dil se..., you can click here to find the recipe.

From now on, I will add this peanut butter cookies in my favorite peanut list.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Mexican tomatillo rice

Did you know, Tomatillo is a fruit ?
Tomatillos are not the unripe tomatoes, they are totally a different variety but same family.
Tomatillos means little tomato in Spanish, and they are used mostly inMexican cuisine. Mexican rice, salsa cruda, salsa Verde, salads, etc.

I like the green colour and a distinct tangy taste of the tomatillos a lot. Mostly, I cook them with the dal or put them in the salad. A few days ago, I made the tomato rice, when I realized that I should not try the same using the Tomatillos. Today, I gave it a try.
Ingredients :

1 cup --- Rice
1 no --- Onion, medium size finely chopped
4-5 tbsp --- oil
1 tsp --- Jeera
2 clove --- Garlic
Few cilantro
Salt to taste
Pinch of turmeric for color.

To puree:
4-5 nos --- Tomatillos, medium size
2 nos --- Jalapeno small size
*** 5 nos --- small Indian chili

It is a one pot meal, I cooked this in the pressure pan. Easyyyyyy....
--- In the pressure pan, add the oil and turn the heat to medium. Once it is hot add a spoon of jeera to it. Simultaneously add the chopped onion and saute it.
--- Meanwhile, wash the rice and drain the water.
--- When the onion turns translucent, add the rice, garlic and saute them along with the onion for few minutes, until the rice turns slightly golden brown.
--- Add the tomatillo puree, pinch of turmeric and salt to the rice mixture and 2 cups of water for rice to cook.
*** Water depends on the rice quality. I used normal ponni rice.
--- Close the pan and cook the rice for 2 whistle.
--- Once the pressure is released, open the lid and let the rice cool for few minutes.
--- Add the cilantro and serve warm with the roasted potatoes.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Homemade toffee

Believe me, this is the homemade caramel toffee. Even I can't believe myself.
Always wonder can we make toffee at home? Now, I got the answer, Yes we can !

Two months ago, I found this recipe in the Food Network magazine, under Christmas special treats. Its Ina Garten recipe, Fleur De Sel Caramels. From that day I wanted to try this, as you all know, I was little busy the whole month with cake decoration :))
As the name says, Ina Garten added Fleur De Sel  in her recipe, but I used the regular salt.

This caramel toffee is a simple, easy and delicious treat. Once you do it then you can use your imagination and try many more toffee having this as a base recipe. I am having many to try on...

Ingredients :

1 and 1/2  cup -- Sugar
1/4 cup -- Corn syrup
1 cup -- Heavy cream
5 tbsp -- Butter
1 tsp -- Salt
1/2 tsp -- pure vanilla extract

Methods :
--- Grease a 8" square pan and line with the parchment paper. Leave some extra paper hanging on each sides. Grease the paper lightly too.
*** I didn't have square pan, I used the round pan and struggled much for aligning the parchment paper.
--- For preparing sugar caramel, in a thick bottom sauce pan, add corn syrup, sugar and 1/2 cup water and bring it to boil in medium heat. In actual recipe, Ina garten have specified the measurement for the pan - 6 inches diameter by 4 1/2 inches deep.
--- At any point, don't stir the mixture with the spoon. If you mix it with a spoon then the whole mixture forms into crystals. Experience talk. If needed just swirl the pan using the handle. Do it very carefully. Boil the mixture until it turns into golden brown.
--- In the meantime in another pan, boil the heavy cream, butter and salt in the medium heat for 8-10 minutes. Keep aside the mixture.
--- When the sugar turns to mild golden color, turn of the heat. Take the cream butter mixture and add very slowly and carefully into the caramel mixture. Now you can use a wooden spoon to mix.
--- In this stage the caramel mixture will bubble up violently. So take utmost care while mixing the both.
--- Add the Vanilla extract to the mixture and bring it to medium heat.
--- Cook the mixture for 10 minutes.
*** In the actual recipe, the chef mentioned to cook until the candy thermometer shows 248F, I did not have one, so I checked the mixture consistency using our traditional method. After 8 minutes I took the spoon and dropped the mixture in the chill water, try to roll into solid mass. I checked 3-4 times and at last I was able to do it. If you have candy thermometer, its well and good.
--- Pour the caramel cream mixture into the grease pan and cool it for 3-4 hours
--- When the caramel is cold, take the parchment paper from the pan and cut into halves.
--- Make a log by rolling each half and cut the log into pieces according to the size you like. And sprinkle the Fleur de Sel on top of the each if using the same.
*** I didn't roll them into logs, I just cut them into rectangles.

This toffee reminded me many of my childhood toffees, Maha Lacto, Lacto king, Coffe bite, Aasai, some Parry company chocolates.

One interesting thing happened when I was wrapping this toffees. My uncle called us to wish for New year. He is a food technologist, worked in Parry company and doing consultancy for many leading food companies. He told me to add fondant before pouring into the pan and after cooling the mixture a little. This will avoid the toffee from sticking to our teeth.

I have to try the same in my next toffee. Will keep you posted on the result.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome 2011

Wishing you all a very happy and wonderful New Year!!
 Year 2010 left many good memories and brought many new friends. It was a very special year for me. Thanks to all followers and fellow bloggers for your support. When I started the Preethi Bhojan, I did not know anything about the food bloggers community, about the events they conduct, how to present a recipe, but now my whole world has changed.

Hope 2011 also brings me many more friends to me.

On new year day in my home town, early morning we go to a Perumal kovil near our home . Morning twilight, margahzi month chill mist, big rangoli kolam to welcome new year, a divine smell inside the temple, prasadam, Tulasi thirtham, Oh I am missing them. But not the chillness, because it is biting cold here.

This is my first post of the year, so let us start with the super double layered chocolate cake and welcome the new year.

I baked this cake for a dual purpose, new year special and for my project submission. As I mention in my earlier post, I did this cake for my cake decoration class. Since the theme and designs were our choice I selected this theme. So what theme in this?

I started with a winter theme and ended with a sunny theme. Winter theme, blue sky, tall tree branches without leaves, nice fresh snow and a welcome message for the new year. As I started working on the decoration, I changed the whole theme. Now this represents the Bahamas . Blue sea, Brown shells, big flowers, green branches. This theme is like modern art, so visualise the Bahama beach and look into the cake again, you will get it !

For recipe, click here
Followed the same recipe, which I posted last year in my another blog. I am having a 10 " pan now. So I increased some ingredients.
*** All purpose flour -- 1 and 3/4 cup
*** Sugar -- 3/4 cup
Rest all the ingredients and the methods are same.

Since this was a big and tall cake, I was able to to share the joy along with this cake to many of my neighbours.

photo from Google Images

Cake decoration class

This month I went for a cake decoration class.  Its Wilton cake decoration course for 4 days, 2 hours a week. It was quite a nice experience for me. I learnt more techniques in cake decoration.

The first class was about the basic steps for baking a nice flat cake and some basic cake decoration techniques.
Would like to share some tips to you for baking cake.
  1. Always fill the half of the pan with batter and make sure the top surface is leveled. Tap the pan sometimes to make it smoother.
  2. If you like, you can buy a wilton metal strip, wet them and place it around the pan. The metal strip has some fabric inside make the sides to cook slower so that whole cake will cook in the same time and the surface will be leveled. If you don't want to use metal strip, here is an easy way which I follow. Once the cake is done, take a tissue paper, and pat the top part a little and make it level. Don't press them too hard.
  3. Use a big serrated knife to cut the cake.
  4. In butter icing, there are three different icing consistency. For applying over all on the cake, make a thin consistency. For making flowers and stars medium consistency. For making rose thick consistency. You can see the Icing recipe here.
For the second day, we all went with our own cake to do decoration. I went with a double layered vanilla fruit cake. Third class was with vanilla cup cakes. And yesterday was our last day. Our instructor asked us to come up with our theme, colours and decoration idea for decorating the cake. It was like our final project submission.

I enjoyed the class a lot. Learnt some techniques to decorate the cake also earned a certificate too!!

Mughal feast for lunch

Yesterday was the last working day of the year. In my husband's office only very few were working, excluding him ! He stayed at home and helped me in making the cake. That is the another story, will tell you in my next post.
Since he was at home I decided to make a richer meal than I normally would. We also invited some of our friends for the lunch. I did a mini Mughal feast with vegetable pulav and malai kofta.

I tried the vegetable pulav recipe from Kitchen - The Chef's Paradise by Gayathri. I love the richness of the vegetable pulav.  My temptation level reached its peak after seeing her pulav and the stepwise snaps. Most of the time  rice in the pulav will get smashed a little, luckily not this time. Though I did not use basmathi rice, my vegetable pulav came out good.
Since I made this for a larger group, did some variation from the original recipe.
*** I used green chilly paste, grinded with few cashews and coconut. This gave more flavour to the rice.
*** Along with the green vegetables, I added the uncooked rice in the pressure cooker and cooked it for a whistle.

A small tip - If your vegetable pulav or fried rice has gone little towards salty or spicy taste, then just add few lemon juice and mix well. The lemon taste will suppress them and give a little tangy taste to the rice.

Next comes, malai kofta.

My friend Kirthana's mom has been asking me to try this recipe because she wanted to make this for Kirthana's birthday party. Since I never tried this before, I was hesitating a little to give a try. Starting trouble :))
As soon as I planned to make vegetable pulav, without any second thoughts, I decided to make malai Kofta as a side dish. I had no idea how to make the malai kofta. As usual I searched the recipe and found many. In all the method, everybody have told to deep fry the koftas. Luckily I found a recipe, where koftas were baked.
I tried the baked malai kofta from Sandhya's Kitchen, you can find the recipe here.
***I baked the kofta for 35-40 minutes, until they become crisp. Isn't this looks so yummy :))

We all enjoyed the nice mughal's feast, vegetable pulav and the yummy malai kofta.