Saturday, July 28, 2007

Chocolate cravings...

Dear Foodies,

Ever had the sudden chocolate cravings...and had no way of getting yourself a delicious, lip smacking Cadbury Fruit n Nut bar, matter how huge a fan of dark chocolate I am, I still love my Cadbury, kya swad hai....zindagii main :D So well, I was stuck at home and wanted something sweet and chocolatey. I went and ravaged through the fridge and saw a lil bag of milk chocolate chips, I also had some whole wheat bread and raisins....the taste buds got to work and out came these delicious ideas !! I am sure all of you are going to love them. They are soooo easy to make, extremely elegant to look at and I can assure you the taste is out of the world :)

The first one is called ..hmm...Chocolate and raisin kissed bread !! This is how you do it:
Get your broiler ON, put tiny specks of butter on your bread and set it on a baking sheet. Send it into the broiler for a few seconds, bring it out and spread the butter,drizzle some honey and send it back in to toast. That should be another 30secs to a minute( a little longer and you will have charcoal !!) Bring it back out and sprinkle a few chocolate chips and raisins and send them back into the broiler one last time for about 30secs so the chips melt a little and the raisins plump up.
What you will have now is a decadent, if I might say so, piece of bread to enjoy. Honey and whole wheat bread go sooo well together and warm chocolate chips and raisins are just great !!

The second one gets bettaahh..,this one can be called Orangey chocolate topped with almonds...yup, this time I also had some cute little tangerines and so used a little of the peel to flavor chocolate. Now, all you guys know how well orange and chocolate go together right. If not, try it !
This is how this one is done:
Toast the slices of bread until slightly crunchy. In a bowl, take a few chocolate chips, a drizzle of honey, a few drops of milk and chopped orange peel. Microwave it for about 30secs and stir to get a thick little ooey gooey goodness :D, the honey will give it a toffee like, non-sticky property. On another plate take a few almonds and zap them in the microwave for abt 30 seconds to toast them. They will turn a slight golden color but the transition to black won't take too long. So keep a careful watch. When cool, chop them up.Now cut finger length pieces of bread and smear a little (or a lot) of the chocolate and top with chopped almonds.

I just loved both these and I am sure any who tries it will love it too :) I would strongly recommend Whole wheat bread instead of white bread and honey over sugar. So go ahead and indulge yourself with a bite of either one. These can surely be turned into really good party food too, so get creative !

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Watermelon cracked open

Dear Foodies,

Jai and Bee chose the perfect fruit for this month's AFAM event started very thoughtfully by Maheshwari. Atleast here in the US you cannot escape them in the stores this summer. Wal-mart has placed cartons of them right next to the entrance as if it were possible for customers to fail to see these over sized melons. And after all the posts showing up in the blogs with ppl using the peels with immense creativity, I was feeling guilty if I threw away even half of them !! hmph...blogging does make you do weird things :))

So here go my three favorite ways of savoring the melon this summer:

If you find eating the fruit just as is a little too simple for your food blogging' ego then dress it up a little with salt, pepper and your favorite chaat masala to get a wonderful Watermelon Chaat.

But if you or your friends are lazy to eat the fruit then pulse it in the blender with a little salt, a pinch of pepper, amchur for extra zing and a teaspoon of lemon zest to bring in the pizazz. Enjoy this Watermelon cooler !

After all this if you should have quite a good amount of watermelon peel all for yourself, and now you can start experimenting ! I attempted a watermelon peel chutney with it some time last year and found it to be too watery, so this time I decided to dress it up a little. It was a totally unplanned recipe. I wanted to use the peel no matter what and started opening up the kitchen closet and pantry looking for things I could add to the chutney. The result was one of the best chutneys I have had. I just loved it and am definitely going to make it more often now. I am sure you guys will like it too.
  • Peel from half a big watermelon, roughly 3 cups chopped (only the light green color, minus the hard green exterior)
  • 1/2 cup - peanuts, dry roasted
  • 1/2 cup - Coriander leaves
  • 1/2 cup - grated Coconut (I used the frozen fresh ones from the Indian stores, if using dry flakes hydrate them in water for a few minutes)
  • 1 inch piece of Mango-Ginger/a tsp of tamarind extract
  • 1 Tbsp - Oil
  • 1 tsp - Mustard seeds & Cumin seeds/jeera
  • 2 tsp - Chana dal
  • 1 tsp - Coriander seeds/dhania
  • 2 nos - Red chillies,broken
  • a pinch of hing/asafoetida
  • Salt to taste
  1. Dry roast the peanuts until they turn a little golden in color and allow to cool. Next heat a little oil in the pan and add the mustard and cumin seeds. Once they start to pop add the chana dal. As the dal turns golden in color add the red chillies and coriander seeds and take off the stove. Add the hing to it now and allow to cool.
  2. To the same pan add the watermelon peel and saute for a few minutes. A few edges will start to char and start turning a pale brown. I did this to get rid of a little moisture and also to loose some raw flavor. Turn off the heat and add the frozen coconut to the peels to thaw them out.
  3. ~I used a spice grinder to coarsely powder the above ingredients first and then moved them to the food processor to pulse with the rest. This was only because the food processor failed to grind them otherwise. If using a blender you can do all the grinding in one step.~
    Now add the watermelon peel, cilantro, coconut, mango-ginger, and the rest of the powdered tadka ingredients, salt to taste and pulse to a coarse consistency.
  4. Serve with rice/chapati/dosa for a wonderfully refreshing taste
This chutney was a shocker, the taste was really really good. All the ingredients fell into place perfectly well lending their own special flavors to the chutney. The slight crunch from the watermelon peel, nuttiness from the peanuts, freshness from the cilantro and coconut and the subtle tanginess from the mango-ginger was fabulous. I got a huge bowl of chutney from this and is has lasted well in the fridge too. Try this one and I am sue will want to make it often too.

I am now off to Bee n Jai's for the round up.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Red Chilli Pickle - Pandu Mirapakaaya Pachadi

Dear Foodies,

I know, I know...its a pickle and the main ingredient is red chillies :)) Now thats a signature Andhra dish I think :D We do love the heat in our food guys ! My friends and I frequently get the "You are from Andhra..." thing when we say Hot or 6/6 for spice level at Indian restaurants. Its definitely in the soil I must say :D So, when I went to India last time I had my mom pack a small packet of pandu mirapakaya pickle (Ripe red chilli pickle) for me. But as fate would have it, I lost an entire suitcase on my way back and like a perfect example for Murphy's Law all the best pickles, my moms home made mixture and the handicrafts I bought were in that unfortunate baggage. And since I had very thoughtfully(!!) distributed the salwars and kameezs between the two suitcases, I was left with useless halves to haunt me:)) I cannot tell you what it feels like to have just the salwar/kameez or worse just the dupatta of your most fav chudidhar and loosing your first (and most fav) saree :(( The saree was the perfect red chilli color :( ( I told you its everywhere :P)

Well, so basically I could not get the pickle and the ones sold in the Indian store though good lacked the freshness & punch of home made pickle. When I read this post in Anusharaji's blog I was really thrilled. Raji made the pickle using fresno peppers (FREZ-noh) locally available at the grocery store. I was thrilled to find a recipe ! The next time we went veggie shopping I looked for them and found the plump red chillies obediently waiting to be pickled. I made it along with Kichadi the day before our move and the pairing was perfect. I was also surprised by the ease of the recipe. It hardly took me 15 much for the 1.5 yr wait !!! Thank you so much Raji :)

I made slight variations and adjustments to suit the near empty kitchen I had then.

  • 5 nos -Ripe Red chillies/Fresno peppers
  • 1 tsp - Fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp - Mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp - Tamarind extract
  • a pinch of hing/asafoetida
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tsp - Oil
  1. Wash and wipe the peppers dry. Since I was not planning on using the blender I finely chopped them. Otherwise just rough chop them.
  2. Dry roast the fenugreek seeds and then heat the oil and saute the peppers for a few minutes until they get tender. Allow it to cool. I used ready-made tamarind extract from the fridge and so heated it along with the peppers for the last 30sec.
  3. Now transfer the all the ingredients to a blender and pulse to get a coarse paste. If using a pestle & mortar first crush the fenugreek and mustard seeds, then add the rest of the ingredients and crush.

This fresh pachadi was superb. It was very very close to the one we get back home and I absolutely loved it. The peppers were not as hot as I had expected them to be so I added a pinch of red chilli powder for the extra kick :P I also loved the texture that was the result of using a pestle and mortar. If you guys can I would recommend this method over the blender. This pickle was also the perfect match to the mellow kichadi I made. This recipe yields just about a cup of pachadi, not much at all and so it got done even before the kichadi :D Unfortunately these peppers are not so each to find near where I live. I got it at Kroger the first time but after that I went back twice and also checked at other branches but could not find them, Walmart does not stock them either :(
Tidbit: When you are done working with hot peppers/chillies/chilli powder rub & wash your hands with some yogurt/buttermilk. This will take off all the chilli juice and soothe your skin. Soap does not do a perfect job and your skin continues to feel irritated even after repeated washing. I learnt this tip from my aunt who is one the best food enthusiasts I have met.
This one too is for Coffee to preserve and a special package is off to Nandita's Hot theme for JFI this month: JFI-Chillies and a huge Thank you to Indira for getting the JFI event rolling !

Saturday, July 14, 2007

and it is ...Mango-Ginger

Dear Foodies,

Mavadi Allam/InjiManga
Like a few of you have rightly guessed, the pic above is of Mango-ginger/ Mavadi-allam/ InjiManga. It belongs to the Ginger family and has the smell and taste of a raw mango. I must say its a terrific combo of flavors. It was a hard to find root even in Hyderabad, but my father did manage to unearth (;)) them quite a few times at the market and my mom made this simple pickle with it that I learnt to love. This was a last thing I expected to find at the Indian grocery store near my new apartment. They already had veggies I had long forgotten and shoved out of my memory as unavailable in Cincinnati and to find this was a huge surprise and a shock too. I grabbed a handful of them and called up my mom to ask her for the recipe. I am not even sure you need to use a word as big as 'recipe' for this preparation :) Do make it if you get lucky like me, it has one of the most refreshing tastes' you'll find .

From the comments I have noticed that its unclear whether Mango-ginger belongs to the turmeric or the ginger family. Foodie and Madhavi said its from the turmeric family. I did a google search and just got further confused. This was the only website I found that said it is a turmeric. All the others say its a ginger. Mango Ginger's botanical name is Curcuma amada and it belongs to the family Zingiberaceae . Now to make it even more confusing, a few websites state the species name to be mangga and not amada, Wiki doing both (Here and Here) But one thing is certain that turmeric also is from the genus Curcuma. Well if Wiki is to be believed then it is form the ginger family, infact when you look up turmeric, its mentioned as belonging to the ginger family.
Curcuma mangga (mango ginger) is a plant of the ginger family Zingiberaceae and is closely related to turmeric. The rhizomes are very similar to ginger but have a raw mango taste. They are used in making pickles in south India. - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
But no matter what the name, the flower is surely a beauty, no contest there. See for yourself ! Never knew ginger flower's so well !!

2 cups - Mango-Ginger; scrubbed, peeled and diced
4 nos - Green chillies, finely chopped (or per taste)
2 Tbsp - Lime juice (adjust to your liking)
Salt to taste

In a jar add all the above ingredients together and toss. It shud be ready to eat in a few hours :)
I store it in a refrigerator and bring it out only when serving. I think it will last for a month or more, not sure about it though, will confirm it with my mom.

See, I told ya, no "recipe" there. And as you might have noticed, everything is to suit your taste, no hard and fast rules here. My roomie was newly introduced to this cousin of ginger and she loved him ;) My other friends were as thrilled as I was to find this here. Do give it a try if you find some, this pickle has such a refreshing taste that you will munch on it just plain. I love it the best with curd rice or dal+rice. But before all this I had to first stop myself from eating it raw while chopping it :))

This one is for Coffee as the prize for it guessing right, go ahead and Preserve it :))

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Harry Potter Rocks !

SPOILERS added ;)
Dear Foodies,

'An ardent fan, a new entry and a perfect stranger to the world of Harry Potter watched the movie together and walked out of the theater falling in love with it' !!
I am just coming back from watching the special 12'O clock screening of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix' and I must ask each one of you to watch it. It is a fantastic movie and as far as I can recollect does absolute justice to the book. The special effects were fabulous inviting scared screams and thrilled claps at regular intervals all through the movie. There were 4 shows in the multiplex I went to and all of them were packed to full house, a majority of the audience being enthused teens who added to the whole experience of watching the movie with cheers and catcalls flowing.

Every theater in my neighborhood had a minimum of two special screenings at 12:00am and I am sure all of them were packed. That is the magic of Harry Potter. J.K Rowling created for us this perfectly beautiful parallel world, filled with magic and characters that grip our hearts; the kind that entices everyone from 6 yr olds to 60 yr olds and no matter how many criticize her books the fact that she rekindled the booking reading experience for thousands across the world is no small matter. For a book to be embraced by so many cannot be accounted to plain media hype alone, there is something the story offers to every age group that has endeared it to them.

This movie based on the fifth book is a perfect balance of intense scenes interspersed with light hearted ones capturing the attention of even a non-HP-believer (shudn't they be extinct by now :P) If you have read the book very recently you will find a lot of details skipped and confused with in the movie. A few characters that you thought would look ugly actaully look cute (Dolores Umbridge & Grawp) A few tiny bits of info like Cho's frnd being the tell tale and Dobby helping out in finding the Room of Requirement were not mentioned. And like the other HP fan has mentioned, Malfoy is lost in the crowd. The book is filled with a lot of mischief and funny scenes that are not showcased in the movie. But most of this comes under the microscope only if you read the book very very recently. If its been a while, then you will know all the main plots were covered.

One other thing that I thought was a blaring mistake was Sirius's death being downplayed. The book dedicated a few pages to it and it was a poignant tale of a devastated Harry and it left you depressed at the end of it. The movie on the other hand has a 'feel good' end. But all this I think is justified with the way the rest of the movie was handled. The tiny bits were left out since they would have involved a lot more character introductions and storyline connections with the previous movies. A HP fan would love it...but everyone else would be left out, so I think it was a wise decision to let go a few things. There has to be an advantage for reading the book right :)

Now for the good things :) The antics of the Weasley twins have been beautifully handled and played perfectly by real-life twins James and Oliver Phelps . They make you cheer them through their rebellion :) The director also made sure that he does not dwell much into lengthy details, making the movie appealing even to a total stranger and yet not being disloyal to the ardent fans, now that is a commendable task. Each character was perfectly etched and actors artfully picked to play the roles. Dolores Umbridge is one of the new characters introduced in this book, perfectly played by Imelda Staunton in the movie. She will fill you with spite against her by the end of the movie and you will wish you could harm her. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a very fast paced movie that gradually but surely makes you to hope that the movie never comes to an end !! I could go on and on about the movie, but you guys need to watch it yourself ! So get you tickets right now :)

Go watch the movie and come back here to tell me what you think about it, even if you don't like it (gasp!!) My suggestion 'Don't read the book to refresh your memory before you watch the movie ! Enjoy the movie for what it is and let the Director tell you the story. You will love the movie :)

Another HP fan's review here.

Monday, July 09, 2007

across the oceans, With Love

Dear Foodies,

Mummy's home made mixture ....yayyyyy yayyyy yayyyy.....Love youuuuuuu maa >:D<
It truly smells and tastes like Diwali in here, this is a must every year at home ! I am loving every bite of it....but hey, this is not all, there's more packages, you all know love is umlimited right :D

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A Kichidi Makeover

Dear Foodies,

I am sure all of you dread the word 'move' when it comes anywhere close to apartments/homes ! I do too but unfortunately for me I have done it 5 times in the last 3 years with another one looming over the near future :(( The last time and even now I am trying to live as much out of the suitcase as possible. But no matter what you do a move is just as painful as ever. The cleaning, sifting the 'need it' from the 'throw it', packing... and just when you think its over, the next cycle begins: Move, unpack, shop and set up home all over again, buying all the stuff that you trashed just a few hours back !!

But the worst thing is when you realize you have packed your kitchen and you are in the middle of this mess that used to be home and covered under piles of dust. And then the hunger pangs kick in ! Its tough to move, but tougher when you are hungry. We learnt our lesson the first two times and from then on, one of us always makes a pot of kichidi to hold us through a day or two. This time too I made some kichadi the day before we were moving and it was also the best way to clean up the odd leftovers in the pantry.
I also had some lima beans & cashews that gave the subtle kichidi and huge 'wow' feel. I had just 4 chillies and decided to crush them to get the most flavor out of them.
  • 4 cups - Rice
  • 1 1/2 cups - Moong dal
  • 1 1/2 cups - Lima beans, frozen
  • 1/2 cups - broken Cashews
  • 3 tsp - Jeera/Cumin (I used a mix of jeera n kala jeera)
  • 4 nos - whole Cloves
  • 4 nos - Green chillies & 2 nos - big Garlic cloves -> Crushed together in a pestle & mortar
  • 1 nos - big Onion, sliced ( I din't have any)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 Tbsp - Oil
  1. In a saucepan/pressure pan dry roast the moong dal till it starts to turn a slight pink color and it leaves a nice aroma. Add it to the raw rice, wash and soak till the rest of the ingredients are ready.
  2. In the same pan heat 1tsp of oil and roast the cashews until golden brown. Remove and reserve it for the end.
  3. Now heat the rest of the oil in the pan and toss in the jeera when hot. Add the cloves and after a few seconds until the aroma rises add the crushed chillies and garlic paste.
  4. After a few seconds the onions that I dint have go in. Saute them till translucent and them add the lima beans and cook for a few minutes to thaw it.
  5. Now add the drained rice and dal. Saute till the oil coats all the grains and you see them glisten in the pan.
  6. If using a pressure pan add the required amount of water (accounting for the lima beans), salt and the reserved cashews and cook. Otherwise move all the contents to an electric cooker and cook till done.
  7. Once done fluff up the rice and serve with pickles/raita or just as is :)

This kichadi was one of the best impromptu recipes I have made. I used the lima beans only cos I had half a packet lying around that I did not want to throw. But I might shop for them next time I make kichadi. Lima beans take a little long to cook and presure cooking them with the rice got the perfect texture out of them. The cashews made the mundane sounding kichadi something special to have, and more so when the rest of the apartment was in a mess it made the meal feel rich :) I also liked the crushed up chilli-garlic flavor as it gelled well into the rice and was not something to pick out of the plate. All in all it dint just serve its purpose as a stock of food but was something really enjoyable to have. I am sure to make it again, hopefully not for a move though :P

Have fun !

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Purple Passion

Dear Foodies,

Purple Passion

After a lot of brainstorming that yielded nothing but weird combos, I thought I would have to pass the Monthly Mingle this month :O And then when we went grocery shopping I picked up a pack of blueberries and blackberries just cause there were on sale and I absolutely love them :) My roomie and I then went through the ice cream aisle hunting for inspiration :) And just as casually as ever she suggested a blueberry ice cream, hmmm.... Now, all of you would have guessed it the moment I told you I bought the berries but for some reason the two did not link themselves for me :))

But one thing on our mind was that we did not find a blueberry ice-cream in the frozen foods aisle, there was strawberry and raspberry but no blueberry ! Was that a dreadful flavor for an ice cream ?? I came home and did some blog search and found this post ! The pic was a winner and the recipe really simple too. I added some chocolate powder for some added flavor.

I used the recipe that you will find here as a guide. I definitely made a few additions and subtractions to it. I used Half n Half instead of the whipping cream just cos I had some with me. My roomie is not a huge fan of berries and I was not sure if she would like an ice cream with that flavor and so I added some chocolate flavor. The fact that I love chocolate has nothing to do with this addition :P

  • 3/4 pint blueberries
  • 1/2 pint blackberries
  • 1+ cup powdered sugar, adjust to taste
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp Cocoa powder ( I used Hershey's)
  • 2 1/2 cups - Half n Half or Heavy whipping cream
  • 1 Tbsp - Corn starch
Method: Using a hand blender and not an ice cream maker
  1. For the blueberry syrup: Bring the water to a rolling boil and add half a cup of sugar and the berries. Simmer this for a few minutes until the berries start to pop and the whole mixture thickens. Turn off the heat and let it cool down. Blend it to a puree and filter to extract the thick syrup.
  2. For the cream base:In another pot boil the cream and reduce it a little. Then add some corn starch mixed with a spoon of cold water and add to the cream and allow it to boil one last time till the cream thickens. Add the rest of the sugar, turn off the heat and allow to cool.
  3. For the Ice cream: Now all that is left is getting all these together. In a plastic container that you wish to freeze the ice cream pour the cream. Add the vanilla extract and chocolate powder and blend well. Add the blueberry syrup, little at a time and continue to blend. Taste and add more sugar & syrup as needed.
  4. Freeze theice cream mixture and blend every 30 mins for the first 2 hrs before allowing to set.
  5. Serve with some fresh berries or honey.
I was scared that the blueberry flavor would be strong to everyone's liking and added a little too much chocolate powder (4 Tbsp) and that overpowered the flavor of the berries. I loved the color of the ice cream, its a nice gorgeous purple. This ice cream was similar in texture to the Mango Ice cream I made. I am guessing it is because of the water added in the form of the syrup. But it was a really nice flavor and I am going to skip the cocoa powder when I make this one again, not that I did not like the chocolate flavor (!!) but to see how the blueberry flavor alone turns out.
Go ahead and try this combo or any other that captures your mood, it is sure to be a hit :)

Here goes my ice cream to Meeta for her lovely MM- Scream for Ice cream, See you all there :)

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