Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Chinese Fried Rice - Indian istyle ;-)

Dear Foodies,

Had to rush to get the JFI-Potato post up on time, will post the recipe for this in a couple of days :-)

*Updated* - Here's the recipe!

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Dear Foodies,

Mixed vegetable & Orzo Soup

This one is an extension of my previous post of Orzo Salad. I was on a mission to use my orzo and so came up with easy ways of doing it. I have never eaten a recipe that uses orzo and was in no mood of searching for few. I was just enjoying the experimentation session !! Even on the night I made this soup I wanted to have something light for dinner that would use up some orzo. It was really cold outside and a warm soup was the only thing on my mind.

I got my pack of Maggi tomato soup and suddenly had this idea of making soup from scratch. I had fresh vegetables that in themselves have a lot of flavor and I did not want to put them in a ready made soup powder. And my inspiration came from Saffron's lovely Minestrone soup.

The only other soup I made from scratch was Saffron Hut's Cream of broccoli soup. And that was when my love affair with broccoli started. The soup beautiful brought out all the flavor in the broccoli and placed it at a level you cannot avoid loving.

  • 1 cup : Orzo/any pasta, cooked
  • 2 cups: finely diced vegetables, I used carrots, green peppers and tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp : Red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup: Garbanzo beans/chick peas, soaked&cooked till soft or canned
  • 2 nos : Garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp : Ginger, finely chopped
  • 2-3 Tbsp : Coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp : Coriander powder
  • Salt n Pepper for seasoning
  • Coriander leaves for garnish, I also used carrot leaves.
  • 1 Tbsp : Olive Oil
  1. Cook the pasta al dente as per the instructions on the pack. I added a little salt and a few drops of olive oil to the water.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and when hot add the finely chopped ginger and garlic.
  3. Add the chopped onions in about 30secs. Saute till translucent and add the green pepper. Cover and cook for a few minutes till the peppers turn a little soft.
  4. Next add the tomatoes and carrots, cook covered for 2-3 minutes till the tomatoes loose shape and the carrots get soft.
  5. Now I added 1/2 tsp of coriander powder for some extra heat. This addition is upto you. You can add any dry herbs instead.
  6. I used fresh tender carrots that came with their leaves and so I added them too. The leaves to had a the nice carroty flavor which I really liked.
  7. Once the leaves wilt, add 2 cups of water, coconut milk and salt. Allow it to boil for a few minutes.
  8. Add the cooked pasta and coriander leaves and simmer for a few minutes. If you want to thicken it, you can mix a tsp of corn flour/corn starch in cold water and add it now.
  9. Season with crushed pepper and taste for salt.

This was one of the best soups I've had. The addition of coconut milk gave it a flavor of Thai food which was yumm. I would strongly recommend this addition when you make minestrone soup or any other veggie soup for that matter. The coconut milk gives a nice rich n creamy texture to the soup. The orzo paired really well with the veggies and was a nice mouthful. I have only now begun to realize how well garlic and coconut pair, and this soup was a strong proof to that. I felt that orzo takes a little longer to cook than regular pasta and so cooked them separately.

I had the soup with half a bun toasted on a pan with some olive oil. This combo was purrrrfect for the cold outside. The warmth from the pepper, ginger and coriander powder paired with the soft veggies was ultra satisfying !

I am sending this soup bowl to Alanna, check her page for more soup ideas !! The cold can never get to you now :-)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Toss it in !

Dear Foodies,

A looooonnngggg time ago I read about rice-grain shaped pasta and like a sincere foodie I put down in my shopping list and got a small pouch of it home. Well, and there the story ended too...atleast until now. The pack of pasta moved from table to closet and from one shelf to another but never saw the light of the stove !! It has been a near 3 months now. Some time last week I was at home in the evening and was in no mood of cooking something. A salad seemed like a good idea. I had seen a show on Food TV where orzo was used in a salad. Now one of the reasons for the orzo to lie in my kitchen was I had no clue what I could make of such a beauty ! But now I had a plan :-)

The salad had a lil of everything. Some juicy carrots, nutty almonds and sesame seeds, tangy lime and some crunch from onions. There was also some grated ginger and fresh coriander that took the whole salad to a new level.

  • 1 cup - Orzo, rice-grain shaped pasta
  • 1 nos - Carrot, grated
  • 1/2 nos - Red onion, finely chopped
  • a small piece of Ginger, grated (~1/2 inch)
  • 1 Tbsp - Sesame seeds
  • a few almonds, slivered
  • Salt and Pepper for seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp - Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp - Lemon juice
  • fresh Coriander leaves for garnish
  1. Cook the orzo as per the instructions on the pack. Add a few drops of olive oil to have separate gains and also a pinch of salt.
  2. In a microwavable plate toast the sesame seeds in the microwave for 30-40 seconds until they start crackling. Do the same with the almonds too, they'll turn crunchy. Both these add a nice crunch and nuttiness to the salad.
  3. In a bowl add the olive oil, grated carrots, ginger, cooked pasta and all the other ingredients.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, a dash of lemon juice, garnish with some fresh coriander leaves and nuts.
  5. Toss them all together and you have a refreshingly light yet filling salad all ready to eat in less than 20 mins.
I had this for dinner and a bowl of it was more than I could have, I was full and my taste buds totally satisfied. I just loved the medley of flavors bursting with each bite. The orzo was perfectly cooked and was really nice to vite into. The crunch from the sesame seeds and almonds was fun to bite into and made the salad interesting. I also added a tiny pieces of jalapeno for some extra heat. You can add fresh tomatoes and other herbs to dress it up a little more. Do give this a try, I am sure you'll love it.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Muffin Man is here again !!

Dear Foodies,

I was busy working on some school work last week and well how long can a foodie dedicate herself to just books. Since the weather was bad I was at home for most part of the day too and the hall where I sit to study overlooks the kitchen !! Now it takes a loooot of will-power to sit there and not get into the kitchen to dish something out right !! So finally one evening I decided to make a few muffins. I was craving for some warm simple vanilla muffins, so I went into the kitchen and getting all the stuff I would need onto the counter and poooofff the power went out !!! Yes, the power !! It was 6 in the evening and the whole place went into pitch darkness... :-( I was alone at home and ......and......well......and....ummm....well..... I am a lil scared of the dark u see.... :-(

So I called my brother and my friends and well...they did come to the rescue. I immediately rushed to a friends house 2 blocks from mine and we were around 6 of us huddled in their hall. They had a gas stove and not the electric one and the leftovers came to our rescue again. We heated up a few tortillas a bowl of sambar, a bowl of rasam and a cup of cauliflower curry were all wiped clean ! The power outage lasted for about 6 hrs !! But it was fun, we all sat down and exchanged stories of how wonderful the power cuts were to us as kids in India. It was the official play time for us. The best part being that in summer the power cut would follow a the homework schedule would be built around it and it would be a lot easier to play hide n seek...hehe

Can u see the nicely browned, smooth base..
Well I think I have digressed enough, so the next day I had all the ingredients ready. I wanted to try something different. Like many might already know I don't use eggs in my dishes, I had some leftover cream cheese+sour cream+heavy cream mix from my Tiramisu that had to be used. I intuitively felt that if used in muffins, it would make them fluffy and light as the heavy cream was whipped well and the cream cheese was also beaten to incorporate air. And the sour cream would give me the acidity that the baking soda will need to act on the batter and help it rise. So that was fixed, I also made another change, I wanted to see how using the buttermilk biscuit /scone making method of rubbing cold butter into the flour work for muffins. I wasn't disappointed with either of these changes.

So here goes the recipe:

  • 2 cups : All purpose flour
  • 1 cup : Sugar (+/- as per taste)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp: baking powder
  • 1 tsp: baking soda
  • 2 tsp: Corn starch
  • 1" inch piece from a chilled stick of butter, cubed
  • 2 Tbsp: cream cheese+sour cream+heavy cream mix (my mascarpone cheese substitute)
  • 2 Tbsp: milk, or as much as you might need to make the batter
  • 2 tsp: Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup: chopped strawberries

  • Procedure:
    1. In a bowl combine your dry ingredients(first 6 in the list) and mix well.
    2. Pre-heat your oven to 300F.
    3. Now add the cubed chilled butter and rub into the flour mix. It will slowly turn into a crumbly mix.
    4. Grease a muffin pan with some butter and have it ready so that once the wet ingredients are added you can send them into the oven as quick as you can.
    5. Now add the cream cheese mix, required amount of milk and vanilla extract to the dry ingredients and fold them in to combine.
    6. Add in the chopped strawberries and incorporate it well without beating/mixing the mixture too much.
    7. Transfer the batter to the pan to fill 3/4th of each cup and rush it into the oven. Look at how well it rose in the oven :-) yayyyyyy
    8. Send it into the oven and bake for about 20-30mins based on your oven and until the muffins turn a light brown on the top.
    The butter used to grease the pan gave a very smooth finish to the base, also the butter rubbed into the flour gave the muffins a very nice inside. The cream mix I used made them lite and fluffy and the vanilla flavor grew with time. They tasted really yummy and delicate the next day. The strawberry pieces hiding inside were a like lil surprises.

    P.S: The batter for this muffin is not a flowy one, it resembled more like a chapati dough gone bad due to extra water. It was all sticky and mushy, I had to use two spoons to fill the muffin cups, one to scoop and another to help me drop them into the muffin pan.
    The amount of butter was how much it took me to get a slight crumble texture to the flour.

    You can play around with the flavorings, probably almond extract or rose essence would be good too. You can use any fruit, fresh/dried berries and even nuts. I prefer a smooth & soft cake and don't like nuts in mine and so skipped them. but you can add what ever you like, probably even chocolate chips.
    I liked the way my muffins rose in the oven and would totally attribute it to the sour cream and beaten cream in it.

    Baking powder:
    It is a a mix of baking soda & some kind of acidic agent like cream of tartar and can be used by itself in any dish.
    Baking soda: It needs a moist acidic environment to work in. And so you will see recipes calling for ingredients like buttermilk or lime juice or vinegar and in this case sour cream. You should combine them just before the dish is ready to be cooked as they react almost instantaneously to create CO2 bubbles that help is rising.
    Read more here and here.

    Enjoy your muffins with some nice warm tea or milk !

    Wednesday, February 14, 2007

    Happy Valentines Day

    Dear Foodies,

    From Big B to his lil sis :-)

    Happy Valentine's Day to all of you !!
    Have a great evening :-)

    Sunday, February 11, 2007

    Pick Me Up - II

    *Updated with new pics*
    Dear Foodies,

    All decked up :-)
    I made some Tiramisu y'day and I must tell you it was on of the best I have ever eaten. I definitely had no clue how it would turn out and had my fingers crossed all through the night !!

    Tiramisu is an Italian dessert and the world literally means "pick me up", probably because of the caffeine and chocolate which are known to give you instant energy. Learn more about this mouthful of heaven here.Layered to kill !!
    Tiramisu, made well, is the yummiest dessert you will ever dig into. Couple of months back, we friends had gone to a Italian restaurant and were so full after the meal that we thought just one serving of dessert would be enough for the 9 of us. The lady taking care of our order asked us if we were sure about it and we firmly told her, we were !! 10 secs after she served us the Tiramisu the plate was empty !! When she looked back at our table she was shocked at our speed and very well expected our request for a second bowl :-). This time too she lingered around to see if we still maintained the speed and we did not disappoint her..hehe. It was a fork fight at the plate, if your fork got entangled with another, you loose your share, simple rule !! After this incident we've been to 2 other Italian places and their Tiramisu has always visited our table.

    On one of Giada's Everyday Italian show on Food TV that I watched during my stay at my brothers place, she made some chocolate tiramisu and the recipe looked simple enough to recreate at home. I looked for more recipes online and found one with no egg too. Last Friday, we went to a grocery store and in the spur of the moment I decided I wanted to make Tiramisu that nite cos it is one of P's fav desserts ! I could not remember all the ingredients but couldn't. The store I went to had no espresso powder or mascarpone cheese and just when I was going to drop the idea, I found that the back of the ladyfingers package had a recipe for Tiramisu and they had very thoughtfully given a substitution for mascarpone !! Lovely !! So I got all my ingredients and set out to make 'one of the best desserts I have ever made' in P's words :-)
    Topped with Strawberry relish and Chocolate Fudge
    Now I am going to share my recipe with you and I am sure anyone who has tasted Tiramisu before will look very apprehensively at it. You are definitely going to think "What ! Thats it and its going to be the best you ever made !! How do you personally define 'best' ??" But I promise, it was the best I ate....I skipped sooo many ingredients that most recipes ask for and was definitely not sure how this would turn out, but it must have been the love that went into the dish ! Cos the first bite banished all those fears and we were all transported to heaven !! All of us enjoyed and savored every spoonful of it taking our own sweet time to swallow it and hoping the taste would linger in our mouths forever !! I am not exaggerating even a weee bit !!

    Okay, enough of the talk .. now to the recipe:

    • 24 Ladyfingers (one pack for me)
    • 1 cup - Coffee liqueur like kahlua
    • OR
    • 11/2 cups : Water
    • 2-3 Tbsp: Coffee powder (dint find instant espresso mix, so used the coffee powder at home)
    • 11/2 cup: Milk/semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
    • 2 tbsp : Heavy whipping cream
    • 1 tsp : Vegetable Oil/butter
    • 2 cups: Heavy whipping cream (keep refrigerated until ready to use)
    • 2 Tbsp : Sugar
    • 1/2 tsp: Vanilla essence
    • 1 Tbsp : Coconut, very fine flakes(optional, adds great texture)
    • 5 Tbsp : Mascarpone cheese (must be at room temp)
    • 2 Tbsp : Sugar
    To dust over the layers:
    • 1 Tbsp : Cocoa powder
    • 1/2 cup : Chocolate shavings
    Substitute for mascarpone cheese, mix together
    • 4 oz : Cream cheese, at room temp
    • 3 Tbsp : Sour cream, at room temp
    • 2 Tbsp : Heavy whipping cream
    1. In a microwave safe bowl and add 2 Tbsp of whipping cream and the 1 1/2 cups of roughly chopped chocolate to it. Microwave for 30secs, stir and heat for 30 more secs. Stir to get a smooth sauce, the residual heat from the bowl will help melt the chocolate and so don't heat longer than a minute. Allow it to cool.
    2. Fold in the softened mascarpone cheese (or substitute) and coconut flakes into the melted chocolate sauce and set aside.
    3. If you don't find mascarpone cheese, then add all the ingredients under the substitute list and mix well to get uniform consistency. First take the cream cheese and beat it till its a little smooth and then add the whipping cream and sour cream.
    4. Take 2 cups of whipping cream in a bowl and beat until it starts to thicken a little. Add the sugar and vanilla essence now and continue to whip until you achieve soft peaks. Easy to get with a electric beater, it took 10-12 mins of continuous beating by hand. Refrigerate till ready to use.
    5. If you are not using coffee liqueur, make some fresh espresso at home or use regular coffee. I got 11/2 cups of water to a near boil, turned off the heat and added the instant coffee powder to it.
    Now its just arranging all this into layers. Choose a dish according to its width and depth, more depth accommodates more layers, and a wide dish makes room for more tiramisu !! I have a Pyrex 3 qt dish with no other options. I could get 2 layers in it.
    1. Line the dish with a double layer of plastic wrap, it makes it easy to transfer the tiramisu in to a plate while serving.
    2. Have the coffee/espresso in a wide plate like dish so that it makes dipping easy. Dip the ladyfingers in the coffee and arrange them in your dish. Don't over dip them as they crumble very fast absorbing a whole lot of liquid. Just one short dip on each side is more than enough.
    3. Layer them at the bottom of the dish and add a few spoonfuls of the zabaglione (chocolate-mascarapone cheese mixture) and spread evenly.
    4. creating the second layer here

      melted chocolate and mascarpone mix

      spreading a layer of chocolatey goodness

      now time for the fluffy clouds, whipped cream

    5. Dust some cocoa powder, chocolate shavings and some instant coffee powder on top.
    6. Repeat steps 2-4 for as many layers as you want.
    7. Cover the dish with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4-5 hrs, I left it in overnight though.
    I was worried it would not set as I did not use eggs at all. And all the rum and marsala was not added, it was an experiment at each step !! The result was outstanding, simply superb !! (*I have made it over 6 times now, and it has won the crwods every single time*)The layers came out really well. The chocolate taste was really rich and creamy. The ladyfingers absorbed all the coffee flavor and little of the chocolates richness too and were really soft but firm enough to support the layers. This is a easy breezy recipe but the outcome is the most decadent dessert and will flatter anyone you make it for. But remember, the secret ingredient is LOVE....lots of it :-)

    For topping I made some more chocolate sauce and strawberry relish. This post is already too long to accommodate another recipe. It will come in my next post adn will be my entry to Maheshwari's AFAM event. This one is surely being sent to Meeta for her Sweet Love-MM, P, my roomie for the last 2yrs moved y'day and this one is for her, 100% Love you and miss you :-(

    Saturday, February 10, 2007

    Pick Me Up !!

    Dear Punni,
    We-will-miss-u !!
    Pups, Jonty, Bhav,Dips,BJ,Talun,Sandu,DC, Kiks, Raps & Megs

    Wednesday, February 07, 2007

    Snack Time !!

    Dear Foodies,

    Buttermilk Biscuits
    Wanna bite too :-)
    I spent my Christmas and New Years weekend with my brother and had a wonderful time there. On the weekdays, he went to work & I stayed at home studying (supposedly)and watched Food Network alllllllllll day. I don't have cable in my apt (good that I don't too or I would never get anything else done). I was totally hooked onto the TV and watched all the shows by: Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, Giada, Paula, Michael, Emril Lagasse, Ina Garten......well basically anything that got screened :-P. I also managed to try out a few when I was there. Will post the recipes soon. I am just waiting to get out of school and get cable !! haha

    On one of Emril's shows he made buttermilk biscuits. I am always on the look out for eggless baking recipes and this one caught my attention. I was going to try this one too while I was with my brother, but well ....

    So when I got back and finally made my way into the kitchen after a break, I made this for a surprise dinner we arranged for a dear friends b'day. I have never eaten biscuits here in the US before( not that I knew these were called Biscuits...what happened to Parle G !!) , but my frnds told me they taste a lot similar to the ones at Popoye's and KFC. yayyyyyyyyyyyy :-)

    You can find the original recipe at the end of this post :

    I can't follow a recipe word-by-word and so added some garlic salt that I had instead of plain salt. I eyeballed all the ingredients and might not have stuck by the measurements he gave, and that surely dint matter :-) Double check to see if you are using salted or unsalted butter before you add salt. I also used lesser butter, just abt 1/4th of a stick (~ 1 - 1 1/2 Tbsp) for 2 cups of flour and it did not effect the texture too much.

    To add a special twist I added some finely chopped jalapeƱos and red onions and some grated mozzarella cheese as a topping. You could also added them to the dough. I intended to do that but forgot about them while making the dough and dint want to over work the dough by adding them in the end.

    After extracting rounds from the rolled dough instead of reworking the extra pieces I just rolled them out to make perfect finger foods with tea.

    All the recipes I saw insisted on these being served immediately after they are out of the oven. That is because they are warm and soft from the butter in it. Also rite out of the oven they have a crunchy crust and a soft melt-in-mouth inside. This is lost after the initial hour. I had a few leftover for the next few days and found them good to eat even then. A 20sec microwave made them soft again but they loose their crunchy crust though.

    These are surely a must try recipe guys, do add your own twist to them and enjoy :-)

    The link does not seem to work well, so here is the recipe:
    Buttermilk Biscuits:
    2 cups flour, sifted
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    4 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons buttermilk
    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

    In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and blend thoroughly. Using your fingers or a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add buttermilk and quickly blend in, making sure to not overwork the dough.

    On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough with a rolling pin to a thickness of 1/2-inch. Use a biscuit cutter or the rim of a glass, press out as many biscuits as possible. Gather up scraps and quickly knead back together, then cut out as many additional biscuits as possible. Place biscuits on prepared baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

    From Emril Lagasse's show on Food Network given here.

    Thank you all for your suggestions/comments regarding the template. Your views did give me new ideas. I am going to stick to the current one for now and work on the color combo of the other template. The green in the center column wasn't supposed to be green in the first place. It looks 2 shades lighter & more sober on my computer screen !! This is a problem with many colors, they don't look the same on all computer screen resolutions. There are very few web-safe colors and until I find one that universally looks similar on all screens I am going to go with the white background. Thank you again :-)

    Tuesday, February 06, 2007

    The White Carpet ...

    Dear Foodies,

    This is how Cincinnati looks right now !!

    It started snowing at 12:30 pm in the afternoon and this picture was taken at 4:00pm. You can hardly see where the road is, there are two cars parked (one farther behind in the pic) but the road is nowhere is sight !! Well, it is 6:00 pm now and it hasn't stopped snowing even for a minute yet !! The forecast said 3-5" of snow...but I am sure we passed that mark many hrs ago !!

    On a day like this all I want to do is to sit on the couch and pretend to do my research work from home i.e., self declared holiday !! So, what would a meal on such a day look like ??

    Is that a Plate meal !!

    No, neither did I or my room-mates step into the kitchen today, so you ask how all this turned up on the plate !! It was Leftovers Day !! yippieeee...who said leftovers were boring !! haha

    Cabbage stir fry with coconut, beans, bhendi fry,
    majjiga pulusu & mijjiga mirapakaya

    Guys, I still waiting on your comments for the new look for the blog, do take a look at this. Based on the comments/suggestions I received till looks like a 50-50 !! Help meeeeee :D

    Friday, February 02, 2007

    ....shud I or shud I not ??

    Dear Foodies,

    I got bit by the 'revamp-your-template' bug that has been infecting quite a lot of people in the blogosphere these days !! I have been living with the thought for quite sometime now and finally I decided to actually spend some time and make a few changes. I wasn't brave enough to make changes to the main blog already and so started experimenting on the blog I created for such adventures long long ago !! :-)

    Here it is :

    Let me know if you like the look or if you have any other color/font/style suggestions. I would really appreciate some feedback :-)

    Thank you

    *photo courtesy : here
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