Saturday, May 30, 2009

Shortbread Cookies - fruit & nut/salty

Dear foodies,

I hope all of you who had a long weekend last week, had a blast. I surely did :) We had a mini roommate reunion in California. I met up with two of my first and longest roomies from grad school, in California! The three of us lived together for close to three years and there is a nice comfort zone that we've fallen into. I've also shared an apt with two other gorgeous gals during grad school, and one of them is getting engaged next week! Hugs to all of them, love you :) We don't have to be in constant touch (though we do) and don't have to explain our words or actions or anything about us at all. We just know each other, plain and simple. We let our guards down and no topic is off bounds. I am known to lose my temper a bit (yeah, a bit. and I'm going to stick to that), but these gals know how to handle me, really well! I would never be able to do that, and thank God for them :D Its a blessing to have such wonderful girl friends. So when I knew the three of us were going to meet, I wanted to take a gift along. Ofcourse I had to make it myself right ? so I made these yummy shortbread cookies, in three different flavors ;-)

My entry to Click - Cookies/May 2009 hosted by the Jugalbandits, thank you :)
These are on the same lines as the fruitcake cookies I made earlier but a lot more simpler this time. The original recipe by itself is fairly easy to do, but I watched a recipe online for a citrusy and nut filled cookie and wanted to try that this time. I like this recipe cos it does not have any of the egg-substitution craziness and it turns out great every time. I made 3 different batches, one with walnuts and a hint of orange, dried cherries and walnuts in another and the third one was a savory & salty version. All of them turned out great and if I really had to to choose one, I would go back to the fruit n nut combo, though the salty one came really close to the top.

Shortbread Cookies
  • 1 stick of butter (unsalted) - at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup - All purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp - milk
Fruit & nut
  • 1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp - light Brown sugar (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp - Vanilla essence
  • 1 Tbsp - Orange zest
  • 1/2 cup - Walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped or combination of nuts and dry fruits
  • 1/4 tsp - Kosher salt
salty-savory version:
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp - light brown sugar, packed
  • 11/4 tsp - Kosher salt (adjust to taste)
  • 11/2 tsp - Cumin seeds, lightly toasted and crushed
  • 2 tsp - fresh Thyme leaves, finely chopped (optional, use 1Tbsp)
  • 2 Tbsp - finely grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. I used a hand blender for 3-4 mins on low speed. Add the vanilla essence, orange zest and salt and blend for another minute until the butter is fluffy and the sugar is well combined. (for the savory version, add all the ingredients, but for the parm cheese now)
  2. Next add the flour in 1/3rd cup portions and blend lightly. Be careful not to overmix the dough, it'll lead to tough cookies. Blend just until the flour gets combined with the butter. Once all the flour is incorporated the dough will resemble crumbs, the size of peas. You should be able to form a ball with it when pressed together lightly.
  3. Add the chopped fruit, nuts, milk and combine together. (Fold in the parm cheese at this point for the savory version.) Tip the dough onto a flat surface and knead lightly to form a round ball. Take some plastic wrap, place the dough on it and shape as a log using the wrap for help. The cross-section of the log will give you the final shape/size of your cookie since the cookies don't spread while cooking.
  4. Refrigerate the dough for atleast 30 mins-1hr before baking. When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 350deg. With a sharp knife cut the log into 1/2 inch rounds. (If they fall apart you can easily force them together.) Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange the cookies 1/2 inch apart.
  5. Bake for 15-20mins, checking on them every minute after the 15 minute point. When the edges start to turn a light golden take them out. They will continue to cook for a few more minutes outside the oven. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack so that the residual heat in the pan does not burn them.
These are one of the easiest and quickest cookies you will make. They aren't any complicated steps and the logs freeze really well. I have half a log of each still sitting in my freezer, waiting to get eaten by friends visiting next week. I intended to dip the cookies in chocolate and melted some callebaut bittersweet chocolate and flavored it with some caramel flavored Kahlua. But I was a little impatient I guess and ended up heating it more than I should have. I was using very little chocolate and was microwaving it for 15sec intervals. It looked perfect when it came out from the microwave 30secs later, but the residual heat in the glass bowl made the chocolate seize up on me. I couldn't let such gorgeous chocolate go unused and so I quickly rolled them out and nibbled on them, topped the cookies with them :-P

All the three flavors turned out fabulous. I was initially worried about the sugar I added in the salty version. The butter tasted a lil salty-sweet and I wasn't sure I had made the right decision by adding it. But along with the flour it turned out really good. You could hardly taste the sugar in the final cookies but it enhanced the overall flavor. The Parmesan cheese speckled the cookies in gold when baked in the oven :) The thyme though, did not stand out in the cookies, you might have to use a lot more for its flavor to shine through. The cumin seeds gave the cookies a very nice warmth and taste, very similar to the Indian nankatai.

The sweet versions were great as expected, not overly sweet and crumbly, melt-in-your mouth style. My roomies enjoyed the fruit n nut one with the tartness of the cherries cutting through the richness of the cookies. We snacked on them during our drive to Lake Tahoe and SFO over the weekend. It was a picture perfect weekend, and here are a few of the photographs :D

.a slice of paradise.

The solutions to the foodie crossword are up, well N posted them more than a week back, it was me who hadn't updated this space. Solutions! I hope you enjoyed it.

These cookies are being packed up for Mansi of Fun & Food blog, for her Sugar High Friday June edition, Fruit & Nut.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

...and some more

Dear foodies,

kala chana, pre-soaked, boiled in salted water, drained and seasoned with mustard, cumin, urad dal, red chillies, curry leaves, a pinch of turmeric and fresh grated coconut.
I have told many many times on this space how much I like sundal - boiled lentils/beans delicately seasoned with coconut, cumin & mustard seeds, with a hint of hing. When you want something filling, fun and simple to act as a protein booster in your diet, this is the way to go! Its healthy and cheap! I bought some chickpeas & pinto beans from the bulk bins at the local organic store and a pack each of raw peanuts and kala channa from the Indian store last month.

raw peanuts, boiled in salted water, drained & seasoned with mustard, cumin, urad dal, red chillies and a hint of turmeric
I pre-soaked the beans and boiled them in salted water for 3 whistles in my Prestige cooker, drained and stored in the fridge or freezer, I have a quick snack/meal waiting for me. They also are perfect side to a vegetable salad or soup, giving it the well needed protein addition and making a meal out of it. With the weather stubbornly sticking to its cold winter patterns and rainy evenings this is one recipe I've been going back to. I've also made them with chickpeas, chana dal and whole moong beans. When I have some English cucumber on hand, I dice them and add them along with diced tomatoes and chopped cilantro. Some chaat masala on top and its perfect. The added bonus of using dried beans is the ability to sprout them. It makes you feel good about the chips or chocolates you might be eating on the side :-P

I've always been using canned beans out of convenience. At 99cents a can, they seemed cheap and going through the soaking and boiling looked like a chore I could pass on. But over the last 2 months I forced myself to get rid of all the canned stuff and try the dried beans to check how much of a hassle they really were. None at all! yes, its not much work at all. No matter how big or small a batch, your prep time taken is the same. So I end up going for larger portions which I can store in the freezer. I now have some cooked pinto beans, chickpeas and kala chana sitting in the freezer ready to be thrown into soups, curries or a sundal. It's so much more cheaper and tastier to boot. The canned stuff mostly ended up being a last resort meal option rather than a well thought out dinner plan, I never really cared much for how I used them. All that's changed now. and I like it this way. So if you have canned beans sitting deep within your pantry closet, give them a break and try your hand at using dry beans. Black-eyed peas and dried peas are next on my shopping list, I did not want to buy them all at once and end up not using any.

So if you are having a lazy Sunday like I am, then set some beans out for soaking, make yourself a warm cup of tea and finish this crossword!
are those the answers there, hmmmm

Monday, May 11, 2009

Alphabet soup

Dear foodies,

After the huge feast we've had, I thought it best to serve you some food for thought today. So I recruited a dear friend to dish out a recipe he's a pro at - Crossword puzzles. And no, not the usual boring stuff, but one just for us foodies to savor :) Click on the image to take you over to the land of words.

Chew over it and let him know through your comments how you like it. Tips and tricks will follow if needed, and if you enjoy cracking it as much as I do, we could bribe him to do it more often ;-) and oooh, how about a week before the solutions are out ? Based on your feedback, I will drop clues over the next week to help you along, there is one already in here somewhere :D Bon appetit :)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

IAVW - Thai, Collection 2

Dear foodies,

I thought you would be mesmerized by the recipes in the first half of the IAVW round-up, and would need time to recover until I came back with the second posting....But no, you wanted all of it and soon! So here's the second and last part of the It's a Vegan World - Thai recipe collection and, also the end of my first hosting, sob sob....! All of you made cooking Vegan Thai food sound like a breeze, so many delicious entries, and no where was the taste compromised - the dishes were flavorful, hearty and satisfying.

Now that you are done savoring the first two courses, and hopefully bookmarked several already, lets move on with the meal. Below are some hearty rice and noodles to fill you up and decadent desserts and drinks to cool your palates after the fiery dishes we've had so far :) Like in the previous post, click on the text link or the image to get re-directed to the blog that houses the recipe. I hope I have all of your delicious entries in here, if not, do send me an email and I will have it in immediately. You can browse through the Italian edition of IAVW here, and the Mexican round-up here.

You've been the best guests I've had, reqd absolutely no scurrying around cleaning the house before/after the party ;) I can't wait to host again, but until then, happy cooking ! Feel free to leave a link to any future Thai dishes you might make, in the comment section of these posts to serve as future reference.

Thai Noodle & Rice preparations

Asha made a fabulous Pad Thai @ Foodie's Hope

Lavi choose a yummy Eggplant curry to serve over noodles @ Home Cook's Recipes

Manjusha served up spicy thai noodles @ Inspired Cooking

Vani recreated her favorite dish that resulted in this yummy bowl of Thai noodles @ Mysoorean

Vishali has some yummy Stir fry noodles for us @ Food Lovers

Uma made a scrumptious Pad Thai @ Vegan Orbit

Vaishali has some fabulous Noodles in Coconut sauce @ Holy Cow!

She also made a simple and tasty Coconut Rice to go with her curried chickpeas @ Holy Cow!

Aqua added a creative spin and made a Olive Rice @ Served with Love

Pavani made a thai flavored Fried Rice for us @ Cook's Hideout

Meera made a flavorful Coconut Rice @ Enjoy World Food

Archy made a flavor packed Fried rice for us with the yummy green curry paste she made earlier @ her Recipe Book

I had to grab this bowl of colorful Fried rice inspired by thai flavors from Soma @ eCurry

after I made a Fried rice using home-made penang curry paste :)

Coolers & Desserts

To cool us down from all the spice Uma has a refreshing Lime Iced Tea @ Essence of Andhra

Priya Narasimhan has a plate full of colorful Coconut Pancakes for us to enjoy @ Priya's Vegetarian Recipe's

SJ plated decadent Sticky rice with Mangoes @ Masala Vade

Priya also made a cool Lychee & Coconut soup @ Easy N Tasty Recipe's

If you weren't already tempted Abbirami made some more Sticky rice with Mangoes for us @ Soulful Creations
Nirmala made a exotic summer dessert, chilled Coconut milk with Rose petals @ Amma's Special

Now hit the gym to burn all that food you just had (or sleep it off ;) ) and have a fun weekend!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

IAVW - Thai, Collection 1

Dear foodies,

All of you were eager to see the final round-up of Thai recipes floating around the blogosphere last month. So here is the first of a two-part series for 'It's a Vegan World - Thai' round-up. When I very hesitantly announced the event, you guys assured me that I had no reason to fret, and you went ahead and proved it too. thank you, Thank you! I thoroughly enjoyed hosting the event, and it made me wonder why I was scared to do it all these months :D I had fun reading your emails and getting touch with you and the fabulous recipes you sent my way made me want to go make it right that night :D

The essence of the IAVW event that Vaishali started earlier this year, was to urge all of us to try out new cuisines, challenge ourselves and, add our unique twists to the recipes at the sametime. Many of you mentioned that it was your first time bringing Thai food into your kitchens. I too ventured into making the curry pastes and some lesser familiar recipes from the great cuisine and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I still have a few more recipes bookmarked and ready to be tried in the coming days, I'm sure its the same with most of you too. I hope this post gives you many more ideas and continues to inspire you.

If you submitted a recipe and don't see it here, accept my apologies right now :) Please send me an email telling me about it, I will update the post asap with the entry. I am breaking the round-up into two posts for convenience, this one has all the salads, soups, appetizers and curries. You can either click on the text link or the image to take you to the blog that houses the recipe. Happy cooking!
Salads, Soups & Appetizers

Kalai shared with us another crunchy Mango salad recipe @ Little taste buds
Vaishali's peanut butter dressing on her Vegetable salad is a must try, @ Holy Cow! Thank you so giving me that chance to host!
Graziana made scrumptious fried bananas @ Erbe in Cucina which means, Cooking with herbs :)
Srilakshmi made a crunchy mouthful called Miang Khum @ Annapurna
Sonu, the new chef on the block serves up a Carrot, Capsicum and Celery soup @ Seven Spice
Priya makes us a nutritious Carrot soup @ her Easy n Tasty recipes

A & N @ Delectably Your's made my fav Thai soup, Tom Kha, that I sadly forgot to include in the round-up! Sorry guys :( 

I made some thai inspired fresh spring rolls and some grilled tomato salsa & peanut dip to go along.
Thai Curries
Sia used a pineapple & tofu in her flavorful Yellow curry and recipe for the paste @ Monsoon spice
Vani made a mouth watering Massaman curry for us @ Mysoorean
Varsha made a Thai curry with homemade curry paste @ Vegan Treats
Bee and Jai whipped up a thai pineapple curry, Gaeng Koa Supparod, @ Jugalbandi. The recipe for the paste is in there too.
Soma used her homemade curry paste to make a Massaman curry @ eCurry
Pavani made a yummy Yellow curry @ Cook's Hideout
Miri made a spicy Red curry @ Peppermill
Archy has a flavor packed Green curry paste for us in her Recipe book
Priya made a Green curry with tofu and bell peppers @ Easy n Tasty recipes

Indrani has a unique recipe for Stewed pumpkin @ Appyayan

Vaishali added a flavorful twist on chickpeas with her Curried Chickpeas @ Holy Cow!

Sweatha has a yummy Red curry @ Tasty Curry Leaf

Uma serves us a nutritious Vegetable Medley @ Vegan Orbit

Maya adds her twist to the Thai Curry @ Konkan World
Arch has a fabulous Massaman curry and a must try burnt garlic rice to go along with it @ The Yum Factor
Anita, a non-blogger sent us a lovely Massaman curry with broccoli and tofu,

And now an entry thats a little closer to my heart. My dear friend Srikanth (whose b'day we celebrated here) made a spicy hot Thai Red Curry exclusively for this event. This was also the first time he was making it. He served it to his frnds at a potluck and got rave reviews :) Thank you! He used store bought curry paste and a ton of veggies - green & red bell peppers, onions, carrots, baby corn, broccoli, water chestnuts & bamboo shoots. So there, all you cooks who haven't tried thai food at home yet, here's proof that its simple!
As for me, I too discovered the potency of home-made Red and Green curry pastes.

and added a yummy Thai style Chickpeas to my go-to recipe list

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