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Breakfast/ Continental/ Desserts/ Spring - Summer Special

Zucchini Bread

Everyone around me seems to be fighting allergies these days. The culprit? Climate Change! Warmer, drier air is prompting trees to release their offending pollen prematurely. Stay sniffle free with this nutrition packed treat – zucchini bread with cranberries and walnuts!

zucchini bread

This was a complete surprise. I was under the impression that zucchini bread was a mere attempt to hide veggies inside a sweet treat without adding anything to the flavor. But that’s not really true. After first bite, I was sold; partly because I had pretty low expectations and also because it does taste yum!zucchini cranberry breadAddition of cranberries and walnuts contributed a whole new dimension to otherwise chewy one-tone bread. So I totally recommend adding nuts and dried fruits of your choice.

zucchini bread slicesVitamin C, anti-oxidants and Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids from the 3 key ingredients will definitely help you build your defenses against the seasonal allergies. That’s how I convinced my husband to try this bread and he loved it, as always!

Zucchini Bread with Cranberries and Walnuts

Zucchini Bread with Cranberries and Walnuts

A nice treat to have after a long day!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter two 5 by 9 inch loaf pans.

2 In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the grated zucchini and then the melted butter.

3 Sprinkle baking soda and salt over the mixture and stir it in. Add the flour, a third at a time, stirring after each incorporation. Sprinkle in the cinnamon and nutmeg over the batter and mix. Fold in the nuts and dried cranberries or raisins if using.

4 Divide the batter equally between the loaf pans. Bake for 55 minutes (check for doneness at 50 minutes) or until a wooden pick inserted in to the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to cool thoroughly.zucchini bread loaf

Notes

I will recommend cranberries as they add a slight tangy note to this sweet bread. Feel free to try raisins or chopped apricots or dried figs.
Walnuts can be substituted by any other nuts of your choice such as pecans or almonds or pistachios.

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.
Breakfast/ Maharashtrian/ Quick n Healthy

फोडणीची पोळी / Phodnichi Poli – Leftover Rotis Makeover

Tadka,  Phodani,  bhagar,  vaghar, chaunk or tempering or seasoning, we may call it by different names but we all agree that it’s one of the greatest inventions of Indian Cooking! A method that’s widely used in Indian Cooking and the only ubiquitous ingredient in many of our traditional dishes from North to South and East to West.

A simple method in which whole or ground spices – such as  mustard seeds, cumin and coriander with some hing and turmeric are added to hot oil or ghee. The heated oil or ghee has amazing qualities of extracting and retaining vital nutrients from the added ingredients, the same technique being used since ages for making Ayurvedic oils and medicated ghees.

The hot oil or ghee infused with the aromas of whole spices is so magical that it can elevate any basic ingredient, including as humble as a leftover roti or poli in Marathi. And what you get is a popular Maharashtrian dish; extremely tasty, super easy and a perfect healthy breakfast item that pairs nicely with a cup of chai or bowlful of fresh yogurt.

leftover-roti-makeover

It tastes best with leftover rotis as they tend to absorb oil more easily due to their extra dryness. A simple tadka with standard ingredients and curry leaves with some characteristic Maharashtrian ingredients such as peanuts and dry coconut flakes and sesame seeds, the dish provides enough oil to digest the dry rotis with extra yum factor! The peanuts can be substituted by fresh green peas, they add a hint of sweetness and a beautiful green color. But I prefer the nuttiness of roasted peanuts.

Phodnichi_poli1

 

Phodnichi Poli

Phodnichi Poli

A magical makeover for leftover rotis - takes no more than 15 minutes. Quick, tasty, easy and healthy - perfect for breakfast!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Grind all rotis coarsely. It's best done with your hands.
  2. In a medium pan, prepare tadka by adding all ingredients listed under tadka in the given order.
  3. Add finely chopped onion and fry it until it becomes translucent.
  4. Add roasted peanuts or green peas and let them fry for a minute.
  5. Add red chili powder, cumin-corainder powder (optional) dry coconut flakes, and salt. Mix well.
  6. Now add roti flakes, mix everything together and let it steam for 2 minutes.
  7. Add sugar and lemon juice and again steam it for another 2 minutes.
  8. Serve hot! Garnish with fine shev or chopped coriander leaves.
Desserts/ Spring - Summer Special

Qubani Ka Meetha / Apricot Dessert

Qubani is an Urdu word for Apricots. And this dessert – Qubani Ka Meetha which itself translates to stewed Apricot dessert is a specialty of Hyderabad. It was the challenge posed by Roha from Hyderabadi Cuisine as part of  SNC ( South Vs North Challenge), which as you might know is a brainchild of Divya from YouTooCanCook, you can read about it more here.

When I first saw this in my inbox I was almost jumping with joy. Apricots are one of my favorite fruits. What I like about apricot is its distinct aromatic flavor. Currently farmer’s markets in the US are boasting California’s “spring gold” – the fresh Apricots. Its velvety golden skin, sweet-tart taste and the fragrance makes it unique.

Thanks to Roha, we now have an unbelievably quick recipe to enjoy apricots. No wonder the dessert is very common in  Hyderabadi weddings. It’s really really simple yet elegant. They generally use dried apricots as fresh apricots are seasonal and they are not native to India. It’s served with cream or custard or ice-cream on top which is completely missing from my plate this time but I have promised myself to do a complete justice to this delicious dessert next time!Stewed Apricot Dessert

Qubani Ka meetha

Qubani Ka meetha

Simplest Apricot dessert you have ever known!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. In a deep bowl, add washed apricots and cover them with water. Soak them overnight. (up to 4-5 hours)
  2. Apricots will become softer and will absorb the water. Take out the apricots and  keep the soaking liquid aside, it contains the apricot flavor.
  3. Now remove the seeds carefully and crack them open to get the apricot kernel, these will be used as garnish.Apricot Almonds
  4. In a non-stick saucepan, add soaking liquid, the apricots and some sugar. Let it cook on medium heat for 10-12 minutes until it turns golden brown. You can also add a few drops of lemon juice.Apricot Dessert in making 1
  5. Taste and add more sugar if you like, while it's still cooking. I also added some Apricot kernels so that they also cook little bit.
  6. You can also blanch the Apricot kernels and remove their skin. I skipped this step.
  7. Feel free to add some water or milk if the mixture looks very dry. It should be pulpy and mushy.
  8. When almost done, add few strands of saffron and cardamom powder.Apricot Dessert in making 2
  9. Let it cool down,

Serve it cold with your favorite ice cream scoop or fresh cream, topped with pistachios slices.

Dips & Raita/ Maharashtrian/ Winter Special

लाल भोपळ्याचे भरीत / Bhopalyache Bharit / Pumpkin Raita

I think this is the easiest and quickest recipe you can make with Pumpkin. It has very few ingredients and it does maintain Pumpkin flavor. “Lal Bhopla” in Marathi translates to Pumpkin and since this recipe has yogurt in it, we can call it raita but more traditionally it’s called भरीत / Bharit.

BHoplyache Bharit pumpkin raita

 

It’s cooked pumpkin mixed with yogurt seasoned with flavorful tadka using mustard seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, hing and curry leaves and green chilis. Some sugar and some salt. That’s it! The simplicity of ingredients really elevate the pumpkin flavor.

लाल भोपळ्याचे भरीत / Bhopalyache Bhareet / Pumpkin Raita

लाल भोपळ्याचे भरीत / Bhopalyache Bhareet / Pumpkin Raita

Soft, sweet sour and savory raita.

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Peel and dice the Pumpkin into big cubes. 
  2. Steam it until it becomes really soft. It takes about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Yogurt should not be too sweet, a little sour yogurt works well for this recipe.
  4. Once cooked, let it cool down. Smash it with forks and mix it well with yogurt.
  5. In a small pan, heat the ghee and prepare tadka byadding mustard seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, curry leaves, green chilis and hing and turmeric powder.
  6. Add this seasoning to the above mixture.
  7. Add salt and sugar to taste and mix well.
  8. Serve with chopped cilantro leaves on top.
Appetizers/ Breakfast/ Gujarati/ Quick n Healthy/ Snacks

દુધી ના મુઠીયા / Dudhi na Muthiya / Steamed Bottle Gourd Fist Cakes

A Diet Friendly Recipe

Moist and fluffy inside; golden crispy outside; the Muthiya make a perfect pairing with a cup of tea! ‘Muthi’ means fist in Gujarati and it’s called Muthiya because the dough is turned into cylindrical shape using fist.

Spinach Dudhi Muthiya

Made with whole wheat flour and grated dudhi with very little oil, since the dough is steamed and then sauted in a typical Indian tempering, this dish is perfect for those who are on a “diet”.

I love Spinach and Cilantro in my Muthiya, it adds moisture and flavor and color. So I actually made Dudhi Palak (Spinach) Muthiya but Spinach is completely optional.

Dudhi Na Muthiya

Dudhi Na Muthiya

A Diet Friendly Recipe

Ingredients:

Instructions:

It might look like a big list of ingredients but almost everything is straight from your pantry so it does not much time to prepare it.

  1. Wash and peel bottle gourd and grate it. Squeeze out excess water in a separate bowl. We can use it if needed.Shredded Dudhi
  2. In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients together and knead to make soft dough by adding water if required. You can also use the juice we just squeezed from the grated dudhi. Also add 1 tsp of oil and knead again.
  3. Now divide it in 3-4 parts. Apply some oil to your palms and using your fists shape it in cylindrical rolls.Dudhi Muthiya in progress 1
  4. Place these rolls in a steamer and let it steam for 20 to 25 minutes.
  5. Once done, remove from the steamer, let it cool slightly. Then cut it into equal sized small pieces.Dudhi Muthiya with tadka
  6. If you want to make tempering, in a frying pan, heat some oil.
  7. Add mustard seeds and sesame seeds. Add the pieces and saute on a medium flame for a few minutes.
  8. Serve hot!

 

 

Breakfast/ Jams & Pickels/ Spring - Summer Special

Homemade Pineapple Jam

Simplest Jam made with Exotic Ingredients

When I was little, one of my favorite treats were fresh pineapple. A pineapple is a seasonal fruit in India so finding ways to preserve it for rest of the year was quite natural. The obvious was Pineapple Jam; still my most favorite!

homemade pineapple jam

I like it crunchy and not spreadable like store bought ones. So I prefer not to blend it. If you plan to keep it for longer which is so hard since it’s so tempting, you can use some preservative. But for me simple sugar syrup works best. Many recipes ask for adding water which inherently needs some preservative, at least lemon and that also means a way more sugar than my simple recipe. Also I tend to cook it lesser than usual so it still maintains the juices. The only trick is to use perfectly ripe pineapple with no green skin.

I use s pinch of spices and also saffron which add a whole new dimension to this flavorful fruit. Try it on a hot toast with some butter and you will fall in love with it.

pineapple_jam

Homemade Pineapple Jam

Homemade Pineapple Jam

Preserving summer bounty in a jar cannot be simpler

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. To peel the skin off a pineapple, first chop off the top green crown and also slice off its bottom so that it stands straight on your chopping board.
  2. Peel off the skin with a sharp knife. You can make deep cuts to remove the black parts called 'eyes' or remove them separately.
  3. Now make rectangular slices by carefully avoiding the middle tough part. Don't use it, it's hard to digest.
  4. Chop it nicely and and put them in a medium sauce pan.
  5. On a medium heat, let them saute for a minute or so.
  6. Now add sugar and mix well.
  7. Let it come to a boil and them simmer for couple of minutes.pineapple_jam in making
  8. Once done, turn off the heat and add cardamom powder and saffron. Mix well.
  9. Let it cool down completely, so not cover it else the steam will add unwanted moisture.
  10. Once cooled down, store it in a dry glass jar and keep it refrigerated. It lasts up to 6 weeks.

[Update] A jar full of love and flavor, perfect to send with kids at hostel., sending it to Kid’s Delight – Back to Hostelspecial event started by Srivalli

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!

Appetizers/ Indo-Chinense/ Quick n Healthy/ Superfoods

Tofu Stir Fry

Tofu and I share a strange relation. Whenever I see it in a store I feel inspired to use it in some recipe interesting recipe and a thought of having protein rich food encourage me to buy a packet but then it sits in my refrigerator until I start reminding myself to use in a recipe and finally it ends up in some Thai Curry with other vegetables.

When my friends came over for coffee (without any prior notice) I had noting to offer except for coffee. It was pouring outside and I was thinking of batata wada but deep frying and again cleaning that mess was too much of work … When I saw tofu in the fridge it reminded me of this super simple recipe I had seen on my favorite show. This was enough reason to try it out.

tofu stir fryThe original recipe makes dry stir fry with just some seasoning and no vegetables,I changed it to add some basil leaves and more sauce.

Tofu Stir-Fry

Tofu Stir-Fry

Super quick recipe to enjoy the amazing benefits of Soy!

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Drain liquid from Tofu package, cut it into larger pieces and press out excess liquid.
  2. Cut it into bite sized pieces.
  3. In a non-stick skillet, heat some oil.
  4. Add finely chopped garlic and green chilis. (Is you are using Chili sauce skip green chilis). Also add onions.
  5. Add a pinch of salt and stir fry it for 15-20 seconds on medium heat. Make sure that garlic doesn't burn.
  6. Add cut tofu and stir fry again for a minute or so.
  7. Now add soy sauce and tomato chili sauce, sugar and black pepper. Toss it for a minute and allow it to thicken and coat tofu pieces.
  8. Add basil leaves and if seasoning is fine, take it out.
  9. Serve it hot.

Tips

  • Strain out the liquid completely.
  • If you have time, pound garlic, green chilis and spring onions together with a pinch of salt and use it as a sauce.
  • Deep frying tofu will add extra depth.

 

Gujarati/ Maharashtrian/ Rice & Dal/ Soup

कढी / Kadhi

I was introduced to ‘Kadhi-Khichadi’ combination by S. I completely admit that it’s a marriage made in heaven; not very common among Maharashtrians but adored by Gujaratis.

It goes without saying that there are couple of variations found through out India – Maharashtrian kadhi, Gujarati kadhi, Punjabi kadhi and sindhi kadhi to name a few. The basic idea is to mix besan and buttermilk with some spices to make spiced, flavorful watery accompaniment to other dishes. You will find more sugar in Gujarati kadhi than any other version, punjabi kadhi has more spices and also pakoras while sindhis like to have vegetables in their kadhi.

Here is the basic kadhi, the version I grew up with – kadhi

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