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Desserts/ Entertaining/ Middle Eastern

Baklava / Baklawa

Change is good if it offers you ample time to adapt to it. Sudden change is hard to digest. It’s been one and half years, I have been working on this project at work, the project which I truly believed in. It forced me to break out of my comfort zone to learn something new every day where change was a constant phenomenon. And now suddenly it’s dead. I don’t know what I am going to work on next, I am hoping something as exciting as it was earlier. This vacuum is disturbing yet relaxing on some front. No more sprints, no more deadlines and no checking emails from home, at least for some more days! And yes, I am back on MyHomeMantra after a big gap of more than two months.

I am looking at this change as my opportunity for renewal and growth. I’m looking forward to celebrating spring in its true spirit. We recently visited Skagit Valley in Washington. It’s absolutely magical to witness the natural wonders, the vivid colors spread over acres of land with a beautiful backdrop of green mountains.

Tulips festival in Seattle

The longer days and budding tulips have been very inspiring for me to refresh my life, my cooking experiments, and my yoga practice.

Speaking of cooking experiments, there are many to talk about but the one clearly strikes out in my mind is Baklawa! It was three years back when I first had a piece of Baklava at a local Middle Eastern restaurant. It absolutely tasted heavens! The nuts baked in lots of butter had a texture similar to ghee which I’m obsessed with! It paired perfectly with the crunchy pastry soaked in sugar syrup with a slight aftertaste of Indian spices left me with an urge to have more!

Baklava

Baklawa

If you are hosting a big party or a potluck, this is a great choice!  Make it in advance, it tastes better on day 2.  The efforts are totally worth the praise and love you will receive in turn.

Last year, we had our friends come over for Thanksgiving party at our place. We chose Middle Eastern theme to try something new at home.  The menu featured tabbouleh salad, pita sandwiches with falafel, tomato, cucumber and tahini sauce, french lentil soup and of course the yummy goodness … Baklava.Middle eastern menu

Baklava

Baklava

Delicious phyllo pastry dessert popular in middle eastern countries

Recipe source: www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/baklava/

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Thaw the phyllo sheets as per manufacturer's instructions. This could mean keeping them in the refrigerator overnight and outside for 2-3 hours before you can use them. Always make sure to keep them moist by covering them with a wet paper towel.

  1. Lightly grease a 9x13 pan and set the oven to 350°F.
  2. Process the nuts until in small, even sized pieces. Combine with sugar, cinnamon, and cloves.Baklava nut filling
  3. In a separate bowl, melt the butter in the microwave.
  4. Place a sheet of phyllo dough into the pan. Using a pastry brush, brush the phyllo sheet with melted butter. Repeat 6 more times until it is 4 sheets thick, each sheet being "painted" with the butter.Baklava painting sheets with butter
  5. Spoon on a thin layer of the nut mixture. Cover with two more sheets of phyllo, brushing each one with butter. Continue to repeat the nut mixture and two buttered sheets of phyllo until the nut mixture is all used up. The top layer should be 4 phyllo sheets thick, each sheet being individually buttered. Do not worry if the sheets crinkle up a bit, it will just add more texture.Baklawa layer
  6. Cut into 24 equal sized squares using a sharp knife. Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes or until lightly golden brown and edges appear slightly crisp.Baklawa with sugar syrup
  7. While baking, make the syrup. Combine the cinnamon stick, sugar, lemon juice, and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium low heat and let simmer for 7 minutes and slightly thickened. Remove the cinnamon stick and allow to cool.
  8. Spoon the cooled syrup over the hot baklava and let cool for at least 4 hours. Garnish with some finely crushed pistachios of desired.

Notes

  • The original recipe asked for 1 cup of butter and more phyllo sheets for top and bottom layer. I used only 4 sheets for these layers and also needed only half a cup of butter which is one stick melted butter.
  • I did not use honey while making sugar syrup as it's not good to boil honey. Boiling destroys its molecular structure. I used less sugar syrup because I had reduced the number of phyllo sheets used in making the layers.
  • For nuts, I prefer to use 1/2 cup of almonds and rest walnuts and pistachios in equal proportions.
  • The spices added with the nuts were the best part of this recipe.
Appetizers/ Continental/ Entertaining

Spinach Mushroom with Green Garlic Sauce

I love surprises! And a surprise where I discover that I don’t have to cook after coming home from work sounds delicious to me. I do get such lucky moments occasionally when Swapnil decides to cook and I play his sous chef role. He is a great cook. He rarely follows recipes but he literally plays with his favorites vegetables and especially spices. He is very intuitive when it comes to food combinations. This spinach mushroom was a result of his experirments and it was yooummmy!!

spinach_mushroom

Spinach Mushroom with Green Garlic Sauce

Spinach Mushroom with Green Garlic Sauce

One word, Yummy!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Wash and chop mushrooms in big pieces. Wash spinach and keep it aside.
  2. Heat oil in a wide pan. Add chopped garlic.
  3. Add chopped onion and sauté it well until it turns translucent.
  4. Add chopped mushrooms and don't stir them a lot. Else they will start releasing water. Let them become softer.
  5. Add spinach, greens of green garlic and also sesame seed. Mix well.
  6. Stir in Italian seasoning and some salt.
  7. Add hot and sweet ketchup as per your taste and mix it well.
  8. Let it steam for a minute and then serve it hot!

sauteed spinach mushroom

Appetizers/ Entertaining/ Snacks/ Winter Special

Sweet Potato & Beetroot Kebabs

 

This recipe is inspired from Sweet Potato and Beetroot balls from Archana’s Kitchen.  A quick, healthy, nutritious snack that looks beautiful and taste wonderful. I just described a kids-friendly recipe, didn’t I? I will be making these for halloween party coming up soon.

Sweet Potato & Beetroot Kebabs

It tastes great with tangy tamarind chutney or hot-n-sour sauce or you can also try with salad with lots of greens!

Sweet Potato & Beetroot Kebabs

Sweet Potato & Beetroot Kebabs

A delicious healthy kids-friendly snack 🙂

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. In a small pan, heat some oil and add chopped onions. Fry them until translucent.
  2. Add garlic paste, green chilies and let them fry for a minute.
  3. Add grated beetroot and let it cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add cumin-coriander powder, turmeric powder, chaat masala and some salt. Mix well.
  5. Add mashed sweet potatoes and mix well.
  6. Heat Paniyaram Pan and add a few drops of oil in each pocket.
  7. Make small balls and cook them from both sides in the pan. It takes about 10 minutes.
  8. Serve hot with chutney.

Continental/ Desserts/ Entertaining/ Italian

Tiramisu

Truly irresistible with Bold burst of Coffee flavor!

Tiramisu or tiramesù in Venetian dialect, literally means “pick me up” or idiomatically it means “make me happy”. And it does 🙂 I love coffee and this dessert takes my favorite flavor to a next level.

Tiramisu

Though it’s a quite recent addition, it’s now ubiquitous across Italy and worldwide. I first had Tiramisu at Royal Orchid Hotel in Mumbai and I fell in love with this masterpiece. As with the most things in Italy there is a great debate about the true origin of tiramisu. Some sources name its origin as Siena in Tuscany however the most credible claim comes from Treviso, in the Veneto near to Venice. Roberto Linguanotto from the Beccherierestaurant claims to have invented it at the end of the 60s and this is his recipe.

People have changed the recipe a lot over the years and the original included no cream or alcohol and hence there are so many versions available on Internet. And here is one more addition to it, adopted from multiple sources which claimed the ‘authentic tiramius’ title.

It’s a no bake dessert and contains raw eggs. The base is made with ladyfingers which is lightly sweet, porous, soft cake shaped like lady fingers and has nothing to do with Okra. (Okra in India is known as lady fingers). The lady fingers are dipped in coffee mixed with alcohol. Needless to mention, you should use the best coffee you have got. Instead of debating between Nescafe or Bru or any other brand I picked up a tall espresso cup from local Starbucks. Alcohol is optional and if you are using it there are two options – dark rum or marsala wine. I prefer Rum & Coffee combination. And then the cream part – it’s made with beaten egg whites and the mascarpone cheese – the cheese with highest fat content – it tastes like साय (say) if you know what I mean. All these ingredients work together to create this magic.tiramisu_1

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

I am sure it requires no introduction!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Make sure coffee is cold before you use it. Add 2 shots of rum to coffee. 
  2. Separate egg whites and yolks.
  3. Mix the egg yolks with 4 table spoons of sugar and whisk it until you get creamy light mixture.
  4. Fold in mascarpone in sugar-egg mixture making sure that there are no lumps.
  5. In a bigger bowl, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until it forms firm peaks. Don't overbeat it.
  6. Now carefully fold in mascarpone-egg cream with egg whites to form the cream.
  7. In a wide dish, pour some coffee.ladyfingers & coffee
  8. Now take one ladyfinger and dip it in the coffee from both side. Don't leave it in the dish for too long or it will become too soggy.ladyfinger dipped in coffee
  9. You can arrange them in a wide rectangular glass dish or use individual serving bowl.
  10. Now create a thick layer of the cream on top.tiramisu_in_progress_1
  11. Build one more layer of ladyfingers dipped in coffee and cream on top.tramisu_in _progress
  12. Now, sprinkle some unsweetened cocoa powder on top to add one more flavor dimension.sprinkle_cocoa
  13. Finally, if you like some chocolate shavings go on top.final look - tiramisu
  14. Refrigerate it for at least 4 hours before serving. tiramisu_2

By the way, be ready to clean such mess but it's worth it.
be_ready_to_clean_such_mess

 

 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

This is my official entry for Foodomania’s Christmas Cook-Off Contest. Happy Cooking!

Desserts/ Entertaining/ Quick n Healthy/ Spring - Summer Special

Blueberry Delight

Holidays are here and so is the season of sweets and extra-calories. When my friends came over last night, I wanted to serve them a quick healthy dessert. I understand Healthy & Desserts can not fit into one sentence but this was an exception.

First of all it was a petite dessert made with ‘camouflaged’ greek yogurt mixed with homemade Blueberry compote and apple chunks. When it comes to dessert presentation is what matters the most, rightt?

blueberry_delight So, here is  how I did it.

Blueberry Delight

Blueberry Delight

There can be a healthy dessert!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Whisk the Greek yogurt with Blueberry compote, add honey as per your taste.
  2. Add apple chunks ad mix well.
  3. Serve into small dessert glasses. Add a small dollop of cream at the bottom if you like.
  4. Garnish with your favorite berries.

Happy Holidays!

Appetizers/ Entertaining/ Mediterranean/ Snacks

Baked Falafel with Cucumber Dip

Healthy can be Yummy!

There was a time when I had Falafel wrap from Dish N Dash at least once a week. I really miss this place. Falafel was on my list for a long time but “deep-fried” and “cleaning-after-deep-frying” were the main reasons to put it off. This weekend I decided to give it a shot and instead of frying I baked flattened falafel balls and here is the result –

It takes much less time and it’s a no-mess recipe. Definitely a keeper. I served these falafel with cool cucumber dip.

Baked Falafel

Baked Falafel

Easy, Healthy and Delicious!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. I did not use canned Garbanzo beans, hence I soaked them overnight in water. Next day I cooked them in a steamer until you can smash them with a fork. Don't overcook else it will form a paster when you grind them. If you are using canned beans, skip this step and instead just drain the water and follow along.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  3. In a food processor (DO NOT use grinder / blender), add chana (garbanzo beans) and roughly chopped cilantro and pulse it few times until you get roughly chopped mixture. Be careful not to over blend it.
  4. Now take the mixture in a medium mixing bowl and add all other ingredients which include finely chopped onion, finely chopped garlic and olive oil and other spices and salt to taste. Add lemon juice and mix well.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease the paper with few drops of oil. Alternatively, you can use the cooking spray but it's not needed.
  6. Drop one table spoon of mixture on the sheet leaving enough space to spread the mixture.
  7. With your fingers, slightly flatten the balls on the baking sheet. 
  8. Since these are baked and not fried, only the flatten sides with become crispy so if you want go ahead and make them thinner.
  9. Bake these for 15-17 minutes until their bottom becomes golden brown. Once done, they slide out easily. 
  10. Take them out and turn each falafel and bake the other side for another 10 minutes.
  11. Serve hot with tahini, hummus or cucumber dip. 

Linking it to Foodomania’s Christmas Cook-Off Contest

Continental/ Desserts/ Entertaining/ Happy Moments

Coconut Macaroons

It was a cold winter day and we were driving pass Santa Cruz mountains. I was craving for cappuccino while S wanted an oven fresh pizza. Before I could realize he had parked in front of Domino’s. Since pizza doesn’t really fit into my ‘fat-friendly’ list, I started exploring other options. I saw this small bakery shop which looked very inviting. The smell of fresh bread was very tempting. While I was still deciding the owner brought out a tray full of coconut macaroons just out of oven. He dipped one macaroon in chocolate and insisted me to try.

That was the highlight of our trip! Warm, soft, sweet, chewy coconut macaroon with lightly crunchy base dipped in warm chocolate was a pure bliss! I packed some and promised myself to recreate this joy at home! Here it is, a very simple recipe and very few ingredients. Though it’s a sugar bomb, once in a while it’s worth the splurge 🙂

Coconut Macaroon

Coconut Macaroon

Warm, soft, chewy, sweet coconut macaroons - puer bliss!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Combine sweetened condensed milk, sweetened coconut and vanilla extract in a big bowl. Mix well
  3. Whisk the egg whites, initially on medium speed changing it to high till it forms medium peaks.
  4. Fold in the egg whites into the milk-coconut mixture.
  5. Line a baking sheet with a parchment paper.
  6. Drop the mixture either using 1 3-4 inch ice cream scooper or using two spoons. 
  7. Bake for 25-28 minutes, until they turn golden brown.
  8. Done!

Confession – I baked them little too longer.

BTW, the name of the place is ‘companion bakeshop‘. It’s absolutely worth a stop if you are visiting Santa Cruz.

Sending it to Vardhini’s Bake Fest hosted by Anu’s Healthy Kitchen

Continental/ Desserts/ Entertaining

Chocolate Brownies

Rich, Cakey, Chocolatey Goodness !!

I bet you are smiling already. 🙂

This is one thing I have found hard to resist. Even though they are easy to make at home, next time I would rather but them by the piece just to keep my weight loss goal on track. I found couple of recipes with slight variations in amount of chocolate, cocoa powder and eggs used. The one I used came from my colleague’s mom. She has been baking these brownies for last 50 years, how wonderful is that! I think i did a good justice to her recipe and made them more special by baking them on Valentine’s day.

Rich, Cakey, Chocolatey Goodness!

Rich, Cakey, Chocolatey Goodness!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350F /180 C. Line the baking tray with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, melt the chocolate and the butter over simmering water. Set it aside.
Remove from the heat and stir in cocoa powder and sugar.
Next whisk in vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time; beating well after each egg addition. Finally fold in the flour and salt, making sure you don’t over mix the batter. Add in chocolate chips and walnuts. You will notice that the metled chocolate becomes hard to work with once eggs and flour are added, but that’s okay.

Transfer this mixture to the baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. Pull out and let them cool for at least 40 minuts on a wire rack to get well defined pieces. Well, I dugged in immediately, nothing tastes better than warm chocolate brownie on a perfect rainy evening!

The Secret
The time you take out the brownies out of the oven is very crucial. A few minutes could turn rich moist brownies into hard ones. Test with a toothpick or a skewer inserted into the middle, it should come out sticky with a little batter and a moist clumps clinging to it. If it comes out clean, you have overbaked them.

Sending this to Rasi’s I am the Star

Off to Radhika’s I love Baking

Bake Fest hosted by Sumee and started by Vardhini

Srivalli’s Kids Delight hosted at UK-rasoi

Desserts/ Entertaining/ Maharashtrian/ Superfoods

खजूर साटोरी (Stuffed Dates Paratha)

Healthy twist to  a traditional Maharashtrian dessert

Satori (साटोरी) is a traditional Maharashtrian dessert prepared with khoya, coconut and suji (semolina) stuffed in a poori made with maida. I have given a healthy twist to this traditional sweet dish by adding khajoor (dates), poppy seeds, sesame seeds and dried coconut stuffing inside a puri made with mainly whole wheat flour and some maida. Instead of deep frying, I lightly roasted them with ghee. The result was delicious yet healthy khajoor satori !

खजूर साटोरी (Stuffed Dates Paratha)

खजूर साटोरी (Stuffed Dates Paratha)

 A modern and healthy twist to traditional Maharashtrian dessert!

Ingredients:

Method

Stuffing –

  1. Chop pitted dates as small as possible.
  2. Roast sesame seeds in a small frying pan until they become lightly brown. Keep aside and let them cool
  3. In the same pan, heat 1/2 table spoon of ghee and roast poppy seeds for 3-4 minutes on low flame. Once done, keep them aside and let them cool.
  4. Again add 1/2 teaspoon oil and roast the grated coconut until the color changes to light brown. Coconut gets browned quickly so keep an eye on it and stir constantly. Let it cool down. Crush the roasted coconut with hands or in a grinder.
  5. Then add 2-3 tablespoon of ghee and roast chopped dates for 5 minutes. The dates become tender, now mix all above ingredients. Mix well for 2-3 minutes. You can make this stuffing well in advance and it can also be preserved in an airtight jar for few months.

Dough –

  1. When you are ready to roll the satoris, mix whole wheat flour, maida and a pinch of salt.
  2. Heat the oil and mix it in the flour. This hot oil is also know as “mohan”, it helps the mixture to become lighter and fluffier.
  3. Stir in warm milk and knead the dough for a few minutes to make smooth and firm dough. Keep it aside for half an hour.

Satori / Stuffed paratha –

  1. Divide the dough and stuffing in 5 equal sized balls. Stuffing balls can be larger than dough balls.
  2. Roll a dough ball to make around 3 inch diameter circle, put a stuffing ball and seal all sides as we do in any stuffed paratha. Roll it to make a think puri (around 5 inch diameter puri).
  3. Repeat this for all 5 parts.
  4. Heat a medium size skillet and add 1 teaspoon of ghee. Place a satori over the skillet. After few seconds, flip the satori and lightly press the puffed areas. Flip it couple of times. It will develop golden-brown spots. Take it out on a plate lined with paper towel to absorb extra ghee. Repeat it for other satoris.

Satoris can be enjoyed warm or cold. Bon apetite!

Desserts/ Entertaining/ Maharashtrian/ Spring - Summer Special

आम्रखंड / Amrakhand / Mango Mousse

Alphonso mango with thick creamy yogurt – divine delight!

Admittedly, my whole family has a sweet tooth – I just have the biggest! Whenever my mom asked my preference for dessert I answered with only one word – Amrakhand. Alphonso mango pulp mixed with very think yet very smooth yogurt and sugar with some cardomom and saffron, who wouldn’t like it? For me it’s simply a divine pleasure!

It’s very famous in Pune and other parts of Maharashtra. Gudhi padwa (Hindu New Year) was the perfect occasion to prepare this special dessert at home. Making this at home does have some challenges but those are worth the efforts!

आम्रखंड / Mango Mousse

आम्रखंड / Mango Mousse

My the most favorite dessert!

Ingredients:

Method:
Take out the yogurt onto a sufficiently large cheesecloth. Tie the ends tightly and hand it to drain excess water for about 8 to 10 hours. Keep a bowl to collect the whey that drips out. Empty the yogurt onto a sufficiently large cheesecloth. I kept it overnight.

Next morning, I transferred it in refrigerator and kept it between several layers of newspaper on a large plate. Place something heavy on top. Keep it for another 2-3 hours.


This gives a think and firm yogurt called “chakka”.


Then transfer it into a large mixing bowl.Add 1/2 cup mango pulp and 1/2 cup sugar. Mix well. Leave it for 10 minutes until sugar dissolves. Add pulp and sugar as needed.  Add cardomom powder, saffron and charoli if you like.

 

I used hand mixer to dissolve the lumps but food processor works as well. In india we use, pooran machine (food mill) to make chakka smoother before adding mango pulp.

Serve chilled with hot puries!

Sending this to Nupur

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