Friday, August 29, 2008

Brownie Points

Dear Foodies,

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Last weekend I was at a 'international cookout' hosted at the house of one of my colleagues. Going with the theme I made some potato-paneer puffs to give them a taste of Indian street food and I made a dessert. Now don't start guessing which one of these I made, because it was not Indian. I made brownies, decadent chocolate filled brownies!

Last year I was lucky enough to have tasted these fabulous brownies and have been wanting to have more ever since. The texture was exactly what I like, soft and gooey. I could make some, but the recipe called for 4 eggs and I had not started baking as much at that time and so I did not risk making it egg less. In the last few months I have used flax seeds quite successfully in baking cakes and muffins and my confidence level is a little better now. But I still wasn't sure it would be the right substitute in this recipe. Flax seeds lend a good support structure but not the soft, sponginess I wanted. That would have to come from a leavening agent like baking powder/soda. I was hesitant about the amount of those two that I would have to use in order to get a spongy feel and there was also the risk of making a chocolate cake instead of a dense brownie.

So well, I choose the easiest route, I conveniently forgot about them :D, But not until I saw the links in this post and then went on to read all the comments in the brownie post to see Bee mention 'silken tofu' as a substitute for eggs. Now that sounded good! And with the upcoming potluck I could make the full recipe and avoid any miscalculations too :)

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I followed the exact same recipe except that I substituted for the eggs and also made them 'chocolate-almond' brownies. For convenience I am re-posting the recipe here with the additions I made. For the original go here.

  • 8 ounces - fine-quality dark chocolate chopped
  • 6 Tbsp - unsalted butter
  • 6 Tbsp - unsweetened applesauce
  • I bought 2 4oz bottles of applesauce from the baby food section

  • *1 cup - pureed, silken tofu
  • 1 tbsp - coffee liqueur
  • *3/4 tsp - pure vanilla extract
  • I did not have almond extract and so used a lil extra vanilla

  • 3/4 cup - wholewheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup - Almond flour
  • I used a spice grinder to powder about 1/3rd cup of raw almonds

  • 1 tsp - unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp - instant coffee powder
  • 1/2 tsp - salt
  • *1/2 tsp - baking powder and baking soda
  • I might add more of each next time
  • 1 cup - bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup - slivered, Almonds
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 12×9 pan (a half cookie sheet) in one direction, and then the other to overhang the sheet on all sides. Then lightly oil the foil.
  2. *In a microwave, melt the chocolate, butter and applesauce, stirring at 30sec intervals until the mixture is smooth. Stop microwaving when there are still a few chunks of chocolate left, the residual heat will melt the rest on stirring. Let the mixture cool until it is lukewarm.
  3. *Blend the tofu, coffee liqueur, and the vanilla to a smooth puree in a processor.
  4. *Add the tofu to the bowl with the melted chocolate and sift together the flours, salt, cocoa powder, coffee powder and baking powder/soda. Add the chocolate chips too and blend them all together with a spatula.
  5. *Pour the batter into the pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle some slivered almonds. Bake the mixture in the middle of a preheated 350° F oven for 25 minutes (check at 22), (Mine took 27mins) until a tester comes out clean. It is important to take them out as soon as they are done, and not let them dry out. Let the mixture cool a bit. Lift it out with the foil and place it on a rack to cool completely. Cut it into 24 bars. (With my cutting skills I got about 30 in different shapes and sizes :)) )


I am now reeling in the success of these brownies but that day I was definitely on a sugar high having tasted all the other desserts that were served too. These brownies are definitely for the chocolate lovers, pure, decadent, rich, dark chocolate lovers! Sorry milk chocolate fans, but this one's just not for you! The brownies were dense yet soft and really gooey. The only change I will make the next time I bake these is, to add a little more baking powder. I would have liked them to be a little less denser.

This recipe is off to lovely Zlamushka who is featuring Jugalbandi this month for her 'Tried & Tasted' event. I am not even going to attempt praising Jai & Bee, their website speaks for itself and I am happy to have found it. Thank you guys and you get 100 brownie points for this recipe :D

If you are reading this and don't already know about their blog, you better not waste any more time cos you have a looot of catching up to do!!

All in the US, enjoy your long weekend! :)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Soy Power

Dear Foodies,

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Being a vegetarian, a very common question I'm asked is 'if you don't eat meat, you don't even have sea-food, Where is the protein ?" I'm always remembered of a scene from the movie, 'The big fat Greek wedding', skip tp 6:00 -6:35 on this clip. It's hilarious!! Lentils just don't count, they are simply unheard of...hmm. But now I have Soy Power :D Everyone seems to recognize that word. There are so many more soy products on the shelves all of a sudden, more soy burgers, soy yogurt, soy cheese, soy ice-cream, soy chocolate, tofurky anything and everything you can think of made with soy. There's a new product in the aisles everytime I go to my local organic store and people seem to understand veganism more easily than vegetarianism. Well, so I still do struggle explaining my diet options but its a lil better now.

Even my kitchen hasn't been spared the sudden soy attack. I've been drinking soy milk for about 3 yrs now and love to have it with cereals. It some how manages to make the ever boring cereals taste better. I buy soy beans/edamame often these days and use it recipes I would use peas. I also bought Tempeh after I saw Suganya's yummy sandwiches. I read about tempeh and seitan on a few other articles and blogs and would pass by it everytime I went to the store, but its look and feel put me off. After reading her post on tempeh I thought I'd try it too, bought it and stacked it into the freezer. Its been there for about a month (or more) now and I haven't touched it, a.t a.l.l.

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Yet another soy product that found its way in are soy chunks. I am more used to soy granules, my mother would use them instead of coconut in veggie stir fries. Being tasteless they just blended with the curry flavor and made no difference to us. We never bought the chunks though cos of their texture I think, but this time I choose to experiment with them and bought a pack home. I combined it with potatoes and tomatoes and some power-packed mint flavor to make a finger-licking curry. Miso is next on the list now :P

  • 1/2 cup - dehydrated Soy chunks
  • 1 cup - cubed Potatoes
  • 2 nos - vine ripe Tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup - sliced Onions
  • 1 tsp - concentrated Tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp - Turmeric and Amchur powder
  • 1 tsp - dried Pudina powder or chopped fresh Pudina/Mint
  • 1 tsp - red Chilli powder ( adjust to taste)
  • 1 tsp - Chole masala or your fav garam masala powder
  • 1" piece cinnamon, 2 cloves & 1/2 tsp -Fennel seeds/saunf
  • 1 Tbsp - Oil
  • salt to taste
  • Pre-heat the oven to 375 C. Spread the potatoes on a baking sheet, spray with some oil and bake until slightly crisp around the edges.
  • Warm a cup of water in the microwave safe bowl, add salt and soak the soy chunks while you get the other ingredients ready.
  • Heat a shallow pan with the oil, on medium heat. Add the whole spices and wait till they sizzle. Next add the onions (save a few for garnish), some salt and let them soften for 2mins.
  • Add the tomato paste and turmeric, chilli powder and garam masala. Blend the paste into the oil and then add the chopped tomatoes and cook until they soften and turn into a mush.
  • By now the potatoes should be ready add them to the pan, squeeze most of the liquid out of the soy chunks add them along with about 1/2 cup of the water they were soaked in.
  • Add the pudina and amchur at this stage, cover and cook for about 6-8mins until the flavors are well blended. Check for seasoning too and add more water if the curry looks dry.
  • Garnish with the sliced raw onions, some more pudina and a wedge of lime.
Its essential to soak the soy chunks in warm water, as they double is size and also get ready to soak in the flavors of the gravy. Salting the water saves you from the guess work in adding salt to the final curry.

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I had the curry with whole wheat chapatis and a glass of pudina flavored buttermilk (the mint I bought dried up before I could use it, so I simply crumbled it to store). This curry would pair well with pulaos & biryani or plain rice. If you are in a mood for a healthy base, try cous cous or bulgar. Cauliflower, carrots and capsicum could be good additions to this curry. The lentil salad you see on the side is from the deli section of our local organic store. It was absolutely yummy and I'm going to try and replicate the flavors at home. And yes, I will keep you all posted :)

This soy studded post is off to Sia's lovely blog for the JFI-Soya event she is hosting this month. JFI is the brain child of Indira of Mahanandi and recently celebrated 2yrs, definitely one of the longest running events in the Indian food blog scene!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Party Pavs

Dear Foodies,

Its been a year since our last party and unlike then, I scrambled to get my party menu this time. But I could not afford to miss this one, how could you, when the task Anita set for us was to indulge in batata vada's and I din't want to be a spoil sport either:( I had the original Mumbai vada pav just once on a trip to Bombay, in Hyderabad the aloo bonda was the norm. Only while making these batata's did I realize how simple they are to make, just our plain potato curry, batter fried and yet I've never made it until now! So if you haven't already had a lot of these yummy mouthfuls over the last month, here is one more from me :)

Ingredients: for 8 key lime sized batata's

Potato filling:
  • 4 nos - Potatoes, medium sized
  • 1/4 cup - chopped Onions
  • 2 nos - Green chillies (the Indian kind/ thai bird chillies)
  • 1 nos - huge Garlic clove
  • 1 tsp - finely chopped Ginger
  • 1/2 tsp - Turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp - Oil
  • pinch of hing and curry leaf powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp - lemon juice ( I used lemon pepper seasoning instead)
  • 1/4 cup - Besan/ gram flour
  • 1 Tbsp - Rava/Semolina
  • 1/4 tsp - Chilli powder
  • Salt to taste
  • pinch of crushed ajwain seeds
  • ~ 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp oil for frying 7 batata's
  1. Scrub the potatoes under running water and halve them. Boil them in salted water until cooked completely. I used a pressure cooker to do the job, 2 whistles and they were cooked perfectly. Peel the skins when cool enough to handle and set aside.
  2. Place the green chillies, garlic and ginger together in a heap on the cutting board and chop finely.
  3. Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a pan on medium heat and add the ginger-garlic-chillies, turmeric, hing and curry leaf powder. Saute for a minute and then add the onions and some salt (to soften the onions faster), ~2mins. I used lemon pepper seasoning instead of salt here. If adding salt, add a tsp of lemon juice towards the end of the dish.
  4. Next add the potatoes, crumbling them with your fingers. Mix well and cook for 5 mins until the flavors are well blended and the potatoes resemble a mash.
  5. For the batter, mix together all the ingredients listed and mix with water just enough to get a batter that coats the back of the spoon. A runny mix will not hold onto the potato filling. Tip: If using the regular deep frying method, add a few tsps of hot oil while mixing batter before using water. This will reduce the amount of oil absorbed while deep frying.
  • Now after Jai used the appam pan for frying these, can I even dare to go the regular way ? Ofcourse no! so heat up the appam pan, mine is a small non-stick one and I used 1 Tbsp of oil overall between the 7 holes. Make small round balls of the potato filling, drop them into the batter, coat them well on all sides and spoon them into the appam pan.
  • Allow one side to cook for about 2 mins, flip it over using a spoon or chop stick and cook for another 1-2mins until golden brown on all sides.
  • Serve it sandwiched between a pav with some garlic chutney to make a yummylicious Vada Pav! ( I used a quartered kaiser roll for the 'pav')
  • hot hot batata vadas

    A very Happy Blog Birthday to you Anita, and a huge Thank you for taking care of my Sunday brunch :) Looking forward to many many more parties from you. And thanks to Jai for a guilt free way of frying them up and to Ashwini for the wonderful lasun chutney recipe.

    Monday, August 18, 2008

    Help me blow the candle

    Dear foodies,

    Yes, its the best day of the year, ever :D

    and birthday gifts have been pouring in over the last few weeks,

    Anupama sent me the
    while Shreya and Sangeeth found my blog to be a

    and Bhawana gifted me this one

    Thank you all so much for thinking of my blog and sending me such wonderful awards. I think everyone who makes the effort to maintain a blog needs to be awarded. I will not be sending out the awards to any one in specific but I invite anyone with a blog to pick them up from here and display them proudly on their space :) Please help yourself to one of these along with a piece of chocolate brownie!

    Can you spot the monkey ?
    no no, I'm the one in the center :P

    Have a wonderful day !

    Saturday, August 16, 2008

    Happy Rakhi!

    Dear foodies,

    Happy Rakhi

    to a bond that can only grow stronger...

    P.S: I caught the crocheting bug from Nupur and am close to finishing my first bag. I used yarn and the left over threads from this project to make the Rakhi!

    Thursday, August 14, 2008


    Dear foodies,

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    The festive season has started in India, atleast at my home it has! Tomorrow, Friday, my mother will be performing the Varalakshmi vratam. Its a major puja at my home and my mother puts in a lot effort every year decorating the altar and getting all the neivedyam ready. You can see the photos from the year before last in this post. The alankaram for the Goddess is done with great detail including the pattu pavadai or saree, a handmade flower piece for the hair, jewelery and the flowers. My mother and I would usually sit the previous night and get all the decoration done, will I was only a sidekick, so is my father :) I miss home the most on these occassions, they have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Every festival has its own pattern to follow and a set of customs unique to it. Its not so much about the religious aspect but more about the joy of celebrating as a family and sharing it with everyone around you. Festivals just perk up our moods and when everyone around you is that way, there is no room for conflict. I also feel that they set such deeply embedded memories in you that you will cherish for life, its tough to remember the years past otherwise :P I will post pictures from this year's puja once my father sends them over.

    So since my mother is going to have a huge spread laid out for tomorrow, here is a tiny token for you and me to share. She made poli (or bobatlu or puran poli) one of my favorite sweets when she was here. I tried to take as many photos as I could while successfully irritating her in the process :D



    • 1 cup - Channa dal
    • 1 1/2 cup - Jaggery
    • 1/2 cup - grated Coconut
    • 2-3 nos - Elaichi/cardamom, powdered
    • 1/4 tsp - dry Ginger powder
    • Filling: Pressure cook the chana dal for one whistle (or in a saucepan). It should still hold its shape but yield under pressure when gently squeezed between your fingers. Drain and allow to cool for a while. Grind the dal with jaggery along with the elaichi and ginger powder(to fight all the channa dal, you don't want to be reading this later :D ) to a smooth paste.
    • If you find that the filling is too watery, heat it on low flame and cook, stirring frequently until it dries up.
    • 1 cup - Maida/All purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup - Wheat atta/flour
    • 2 Tbsp+ - Oil
    • a pinch of salt and turmeric
    • Water
    • Dough: Make a soft and pliable dough by mixing the flours, salt and turmeric with the oil and required amount of water. For a soft poli, use more oil than water to make the dough. The oil combined with the maida will result in the elastic dough which will hold more of the filling without tearing apart while rolling. Once kneaded, smear oil over the dough and cover loosely with a damp cloth to avoid drying.
    • Assembly: Oil your palms, rolling pin and rolling surface well. (use as little flour as possible for lasting softness of the poli). Take a lime sized ball of the dough, flatten it into a ~5"dia circle and form it into a cup shape by placing it on your palm, place a slightly lesser sized ball of poornam into in and seal the opening with the dough. (ref. Photo above)
    • {To form the cup shape by hand, flatten the dough between your palms, hold it with both your hands, 4 fingers of each hand covering the base of the dough and the thumb placed inside. The dough is then rhythmically passed between the fingers with the thumb forming the cup. Very hard to explain with words and I don't have any good pics :( There is one on this post, step 4).
    • Once you have the stuffed balls formed, take a wide plastic sheet, we used a ziploc bag cut open, smear it with a little oil and place a ball in the center, cover with another sheet on top and roll the dough it into a circle. Using the plastic sheet totally reduces the need for flour and makes the rolling a lot easier. (ref. Photo above)
    • Heat a tawa/cast iron pan on medium heat, place a rolled poli and let it cook completely on one side before flipping it. (use the appearance of tiny brown spots as an indication to flip) Since there is enough oil in the dough you will not need any in this step.
    • When cooked on both sides, smear them with a little ghee before taking it off the heat.
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    Poli is a decadent sweet treat and can be savored hot or at room temperature. I like to eat it with sugar sprinkled on top and some warm milk poured over it. My dad likes to have it with sugar dusted on top and a drizzle of honey all over, and my brother, well he'll have it anyway you give it to him :) This is a sweet that you might indulge in very rarely, so don't skimp on the oil or the ghee when you do or all the effort you put in will not be rewarded with the same amount of satisfaction.

    Kozhakattai/Modak is a sweet made specifically on Varalakshmi vratam, for other Indian sweet recipes on my blog click here. Have a lovely puja at home if you follow this custom and drop me a comment sharing your experience.

    Monday, August 11, 2008

    Upma with wheat rava

    Dear foodies,

    I might have mentioned it before, but I always disliked upma made from the semolina rava, the normal rava upma. I don't know why. My mom would make maggi for me whenever she was making this for tiffin or dinner. But I would eat upma made from broken/cracked wheat aka , wheat rava and I also loved bambino and poha upma, the semolina rava was the only one detested.

    But even that changed after I came to the US. My roomie Pari, loves upma and she made it quite a few times for us. The first time she made it, I was kinda uncomfortable to say I did not like it and make something else for myself, well, who wants to cook when its not your cooking turn :P. But after I tasted it, things changed. It tasted great and I even learnt her method for cooking it ( I did not take the recipe from my mother before coming here thinking I would never ever make it :D). Since then I have had bowlfuls of her upma and even started making some for myself after we moved out.

    But hey, we were talking about the wheat rava upma here, lets not steal its thunder. Wheat rava, or broken wheat is rich in carbohydrates and fiber and less refined when compared to semolina rava. The way its sold in the market, the grains are a little coarse and when cooked they fluff up quite a bit. It could easily be served for a light dinner as opposed to being just a tiffin item. I posted a recipe that my mom sent to me earlier...err 2yrs back, that was in August too! Its been a loooong time since I started this blog then!!

    I made this upma a few weeks back. I totally miscalculated the amount though. I used 2-21/2 cups of rava, and ended up with 1/2 a huge cooker full of it. I had it for countless meals before having to throw away a tiny portion cos I could not take it any longer!

    Here is the recipe to make the upma, my additions to this were
    • 1/2 cup - Edamame, shelled soybean or substitute with peas/lima beans/tuvar lilva/chickpeas
    • 1 ea - golden beetroot and kohlrabi (only because I had them, you can use other vegetables like carrots, potatoes, tomatoes)
    • 1/2 cup - thawed, frozen spinach
    • 1 tsp - chopped ginger
    I used lesser oil (1 Tbsp) and used the cooker just like my mother shows in her recipe. After turning off the heat, fluff up the upma with a fork or spoon and serve warm. I had mine with fresh cut-mango pickle and curds, sprinkled some idli podi. This upma is really flavorful and hearty, with the rava having a nice texture. If you haven't tried this yet I recommend that you do. The options are endless and you can spice it up anyway you like with the vegetables in your pantry. You could also add peanuts or cashews to it.

    A couple of days after Suganya posted her fiercely red tomato soup, I bought a few vine ripe tomatoes and made it at home. My intention was to have it last for a couple of dinners, but I found myself having two cups of it for dinner that night and the rest for lunch the next day! It was super delicious and damn easy to make. Its the most perfect tomato soup I've had. If you don't believe me, give it a try and you will know :D I topped it with some grated beets and it was really yummy.

    Hope this Monday is treating you right? and hey, did you guys watch the Olympics opening ceremony on the 8th, wasn't it just fabulous ?

    Friday, August 08, 2008

    Rasam powder

    Dear Foodies,
    Rasam powder
    As promised, I finally managed to get the recipe for rasam powder from my mom and successfully noted down the ingredients so I don't mess them up here. I have never made rasam or sambar powder for myself until now. I get my stock renewed when I go home or my mom parcels it out to me. This time though she made it fresh right here in my kitchen :)

    Rasam powder
    It could be because of the familiarity of flavors, but when I am looking for the comforting taste, only the rasam/sambar made from my mom's powder does the trick. I have used MTR's sambar powder a few times and I find its definitely better than a few other brands I tried. But making the powder isn't tough at all. You could make a decently portioned amount of powder and store it in a ziploc bag or airtight container that seals its freshness. I usually store the powders in a section of my fridge and extract tiny portions to store in my spice rack when needed. If you don't make rasam frequently at home then you could easily size it down too to serve a few meals. The extra minutes you spend making it will be generously rewarded through flavor. You also get a chance to tailor it to suit your tastes.

    Here is my mother's recipe:

    Rasam powder
    • 1 cup - Dhania/ coriander seeds
    • 1 1/2 tsp - Miriyalu/ whole Peppercorns
    • 1 tsp - Jeera/ Cumin seeds
    • 1 tsp - Chana dal
    • 1 tsp - Toor dal
    • 1/2 -1 tsp - Red chilli powder (optional)
    • Dry roast all the ingredients one after the other, until they slightly change colors and release their aroma. (except chilli powder ofcourse)
    • Cool them on a plate for a few minutes and ground to a fine powder. Add chilli powder and mix. Store in a dry, airtight container/bag.
    Here is a recipe for tomato chaaru/rasam using this powder.

    Rasam powder
    Dhania is the main ingredient in the rasam powder which is then followed by pepper in quantity. Dhania has been known for its positive effects on the digestive system and is a carminative. It soothes the system and finds itself being used to relieve indigestion (pepper also aids in this) and flatulence. You can read more about this seed at its wiki page. Infact both coriander and tamarind act as appetite stimulants thus helping you eat a little more of that delicious payasam and scrumptious vada at the end of a lengthy festival meal ;) Now you know why they enticingly place the imli ki chutney along with the appetizers at restaurants, it gets the digestive juices flowing getting you all set to pounce on the main menu :)

    The dals are added to lend support to the powder and increase in their quantity will lead to a very thick rasam. My mother does not salt her rasam powder, she prefers adding it while making the rasam based on the quantity and type of rasam made, same practice for hing/asafoetida too. Using these as a guideline, I am sure you can size down the recipe to your needs. So try this version if you are in mood for a change and come back to tell me if you liked it :)

    How is your family recipe different from mine ?

    Have a nice weekend all!

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