Monthly Archives: January 2015

Tricky little temperamental Treat

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French Macarons

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I had never seen a Stand Mixer until a few years ago. Always wanted to buy one since I saw it but could not justify the investment …until today, I bought my first KitchenAid..

Growing up in India I did not know much about baking. For one, we did not have any oven or any stand mixer  at home.  Mom made cakes on the stove top in this contraption and creamed the butter & sugar patiently with just her hands. I always love the cakes she makes but now I appreciate even more knowing how much effort went into it. When I came to the US I tasted so many yummy baked good and I started baking as well. The first time I tasted Macaroons, I did not care much more it. I personally don’t like coconut & chocolate together. Every time my daughter asked me to make Macroons, I kind of made excuses since I thought she was referring to Coconut Macaroon.

 

Then last year, Whole Foods opened near where we live and I got to see and taste French Macron for the first time, and let me tell you I fell in love with it.  Every time we go grocery shopping to Whole Foods, we coem back with a pack of macrons. They are yummy but expensive and I never felt like I ate to my hearts content.

 

So I decide to try and make Macrons at home. Usually I am good at following instructions and recipes, so I figured I can make macarons as long as I have the recipe and ingredients. Boy was I wrong, I failed miserably…not one, two, more like 6 times.  I had almost given up…but then I remembered that I had a set a birthday goal for my self. Yeah, like people set New Years resolutions, I make Birthday resolutions. On every birthday I set a few goals and try to complete them before the next birthday. So going back to Macrons, making them is one such goal I made last year and just could not give up.

I tried the seventh time… and very proud to say it worked. And that is how that KitchenAid came into my life..

French Macarons- a delicate temperamental cookie..but worth every min spent on it.

Macrons have very simple ingredients and looks very deceivingly easy looking, but the trick is in following all the steps and tips. I watched many you tube videos, read many recipes and then finally settled on this one..

 

Ingredients:

Cookie:

7 oz Confectioner ( powder) sugar
4 oz  Almond flour/meal
4 oz  Egg whites at room temp
3.5 oz granulated sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp gel color of your choice

Filing

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
4 cups Confectioner ( powder) sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp milk

Method

A. For cookies:

Part 1- Dry mixture
  1. Sift the almond flour and the confectioner sugar at least 4-5 times. This makes the batter light and also ensures that there are no lumps in the batter.
Part 2- Meringue
  1. Making meringue- Take the egg whites and start beating them on a low-medium speed until it foams
  2. Add granulated sugar slowly. Once all the sugar is added, add the cream of tartar.
  3. Kepp checking in between and make sure you stir in between so make ensure that there is no liquid egg white remaining at the bottom of the bowl.

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  1. Scrape down the sides, add the food color
  2. Beat on high till you get a soft peak.
  3. It is not done if you get a beak, when you left the whisk out of the egg mixture.
Part 3- Mix the ingredients
  1. Mix 1/3 of the almond flour mixture in the egg mixture.
  2. Using the folding action mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients.
  3. When the dry flour is sort of mixed, add the next 1/3 and continue
  4. THIS IS IMPORTANT- DO NOT UNDER MIX OR OVER MIX. THIS PICTURE SHOWS YOU EXAMPLES.
  5. When you can see a ribbon falling from your spoon, your batter is ready
Part 4- Piping and baking the cookies
  1. Draw circle on the paper. These will act as a template for piping your cookies.
  2. Out that template on the baking sheet.
  3. Line your baking tray with parchment paper, on top of the template
  4. Fill the mixture in a pastry bag and using a #2 round tip, pipe the cookies on the parchment paper

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  1. Make sure you keep the tip almost buried in the mixture so you don’t get a point on the cookie- if you get a point it will look funny and the point will burn during baking
Part 5- Drying of the cookies
  1. Heat the oven to 325 F.
  2. Take the tray with the piped cookies and tap really firmly on the counter. This will ensure that the air trapped is released

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  1. Let the tray sit on the counter until the cookies have a skin on top and are dry to touch. Depending on the weather it could take from 20-30 mins
  2. I write the time on it so I know when I can check.
  3. Now your cookies are ready to go in.
Part 6: Baking
  1. Make sure that the oven temperature is right.
  2. Bake th cookies  for 10-15 min
  3. Turn half way to ensure even baking
  4. Check if the cookies are done- when you gently try to move the top and it kind of wiggles and slides, the cookies are not done.

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  1. Watch carefully  though since they go from not done to done very quickly
Part 7: Cooling
  1. I know it is tempting to eat them right away
  2. Wait for 3-4 minutes to take the cookies off the baking tray
  3. Let them cool completely before you fill them up.
B. For Filling
  1. Beat the butter until creamy
  2. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time.
  3. Add the color, lemon juice and zest and beat the mixture until light and fluffy.
There are 7 key points to remember, I have listed them here and have mentioned again along the way.
  1. Measure your ingredient- I recommend weighing them instead of measuring in a cup
  2. Sieve the almond meal & Suagr
  3. Beat your egg white just till soft peak stage
  4. Don’t over or under mix the Egg & Almond mixture
  5. Make sure the air is tapped out before you bake the macrons
  6. Make sure they dry out before you bake
  7. Make sure the oven temp is right

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Apricot Almond cardamom cake

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Apricot-almond cake

My daughter is always looking for something to eat after school, she is picky… But in a good way..the snack have to be healthy, no soda, no chips, not processed food, should be easy to eat…

I am happy because she is making smart and wise choices and I want to support that anyway I can. So I ensure that there are good snack options available, nuts, fruits, dehydrated vegetables, dehydrated fruits etc.

Todays post is one such recipe which is very healthy and yet tasty. Today I added a touch of cardamom to this cake and I feel it complimented the almond flavor so well. Made from whole wheat flour, no butter, no sugar and no eggs…I don’t mind if she eats an extra piece

Apricot Almond cake

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It has very delicate flavor and goes well as a desert with a dollop of whipped cream. It can be easily made vegan which I like, I can make it when I have friends who eat  dairy-free, or don’t eat processed sugars.

Ingredients:

Apricot cake ingredients

18-20 Dried apricots
1 1/4 cups  milk ( you can also use Almond milk to make a Vegan version)

Note: You may need to adjust the milk qty based on how dry the apricots are. The batter should be not runny but not overly clumpy or sticky either.

2-3 tsp sugar( optional, I do not add since the apricots here are sweet)
1 cup flour( I take 1/2 atta & 1/2 un bleached flour, all atta recipe makes it dense)
1/2 cup oil
1 tea spn baking soda
1 tbl spn almonds(or more if you are crazy about nuts like me)

1/8 tsp cardamom powder

Method:
Soak the apricots(save 2-3 to be chopped &added to the batter) in warm  milk (3-4 hours is enough for the dates we get here)

Remove the seeds if not using seedless. Blend them to a smooth paste along with the milk in which it is soaked in.

Add oil and mix.

Add cardamom powder
Sieve together flour and baking soda. Add the flour one spoon at a time and mix slowly.

Taste and if needed add sugar. Add the nuts and mix.

Preheat the oven at 350F. Bake the cake in a greased oven dish for 35-40min

You are ready to dive into guilt free treat

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Depending on the color of the apricots your cake might be orange or brown, so dont worry so much about the color as long as the cake tastes good. As you can see, two different colors I got since the apricots were of different colors.

Dark apricots:

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Light Apricots

Apricot cake

Note:

I also make a Date-Walnut cake with similar recipe and it tastes just as yummy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken marsala- sounds like masala but so much different

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Chicken marsala- sounds like masala but so much different

I love Chicken Marsala, it is flavorful not heavy and very easy to make. Another reason I like it is that it has mushrooms, and I love mushrooms.

Chicken Marsala

Chicken Marsala

I have always loved mushrooms. But when I ate Portabella mushrooms, I fell in love with them. I like the fact that it holds its shape even after cooking and does not melt away.

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I feel that everyone should be like that, try to adapt to the situation without giving up your own. I feel very strongly about it since in India where I grew up, it is expected that  when a woman gets married she forgets her past, her existence and gives herself to the new family, adapts to the new customs and mold herself to the liking of her husband and her in laws. I think it is not fair..not only because she has to make so many adjustments but that she can not be herself any more. Change of name, wearing symbols showing she is married, keeping fast for her husband…all are one sided adjustments that are expected of a woman and very rarely reciprocated.

I guess Women rights is is not the topic of this post, mushrooms are, so moving on…

In winter when the farmers market sort of shrinks, there are very few vegetables, a star like mushroom comes to the rescue. And a dish like ‘Chicken Marsala’ showcases the mushrooms very well.

I had watched a food network show where a chef ( I think it was Giada)made Chicken Marsala, I thought it is so easy and have been making it for a while now.

The recipe itself is very simple, very few ingredients and comes together very quickly. It also looks very fancy so makes a great candidate when you have company. It can be made ahead and kept warm.

Ingredients:

For the chicken cutlets

2 Boneless skinless Organic Chicken breasts

1/2 cup all purpose flour

Salt & Pepper to taste

Oil

Sauce

4 cups sliced crimini mushrooms

1/2 cup Sweet Marsala wine

1/2 cup organic chicken stock

3 oz prosciutto chopped in small pieces

2 tbsp unsalted butter

1/4 cup chopped Parsley

Method:

Chicken Cutlets

Slice the chicken in half horizontally, or cut like butterfly. Put in on a cutting board, cover with plastic and pound  it with a mallet till it is nice thickness.

Season with salt & pepper.

Take flour in a wider bowl & season with salt & pepper generously.

Heat a skillet on medium heat.

Drench chicken in the flour mixture well. Shake off the excess flour.

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Add olive oil to the skillet and add the flour covered chicken pieces.

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Cook till it is nice and brown on both sides, about 4-5 mins on each side. If the chicken piece is thicker, it might take longer.

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Remove and keep aside on a plate. Keep it covered so it stays warm.

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In the same pan add the chopped prosciutto on medium heat. It will gives out some fat, after it browns.

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Add the sliced mushrooms.

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Cook the mushrooms until they are a bit softer. Season with some pepper.

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Add the marsala and cook till the alcohol burns.

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I like to flambe the mushrooms at this point. I think it adds a nice flavor to the mushrooms & helps burn the alcohol off.

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Add the chicken stock and cook a few mins.

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Add the chicken cutlets and heat through. Add butter and stir well.

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Add chopped parsley.

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I like to serve it with something like orzo, mashed potatoes.

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I think these serve like a blank canvas, take on the flavors of the main dish, in this case the Chicken Marsala.

Sabudana Khichadi- a typical Indian Breakfast

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Sabudana ( Tapioca) looks  like tiny white pearls, made from roots of the cassava plant, it is very common in Indian cooking. It is a younger cousin of the Boba tea/Tapioca tea. Typically it is eaten during fasting, but also eaten as a common breakfast food. It is can be made as a savory or a sweet dish. It can be eaten like a tapioca pudding but my favorite recipe is a savory one.

My husband and kids are big fans of this and happily eat it any time. In fact whenever my son comes home, the first thing he wants to eat is this ‘Sabudana Khichadi’

They even love to take it in the lunch box.

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The recipe is very simple but I feel the trick is in soaking the Sabudana right. So today I will share my step by step recipe.

Ingredients:

3 cups of sabudana ( sago/Tapioca)

1/2 cup roasted peanuts

4-5 green chilies

2 tbsp Cumin seeds ( divided use)

1-2 Potatoes, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup milk at room temp

Oil

2 tbsp ghee

Sugar

Salt

For garnish:

Chopped cilantro

Fresh grated coconut

Method:

Take the sabudana in a large pot. Wash it with cold water. When you start washing it will looks cloudy

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Wash until the water runs clear. This helps get rid of excess starch which makes the khichadi clumpy when cooked.

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Add water just to cover the sabudana and a little over.

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Now let it soak for at least 7-8 hours. I end up soaking it overnight since I make this mostly for breakfast.

About an hour before you plan to make the khichadi, take the milk and sprinkle it over the soaked sabudana. Using fork separate the grains and leave aside.

Make powder with roasted peanuts

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Make paste with the green chilies & 1 tbsp of cumins seeds in a mortal & pestle, you can also use a blender.

Add peanut powder, chili mixture, salt & Sugar to the soaked sabudana and mix well.

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In a pan heat oil, add cumin seeds. Add some green chili pieces and saute till the cumin seeds are brown.

Add sliced potatoes, add salt to the potatoes and cover.

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Cook until the potatoes are done.

Add the sabudana mixture and cook. Cover for only a couple of mins and stir constantly, this will prevent clumps from forming. The easiest way to know when it is done is to check if the pearls are translucent.

Add the ghee and mix well. Traditionally it is cooked in ghee, but if you are trying to avoid it then adding just a couple of tbsp at the end is a good solution. This gives the flavor of ghee but you dont have to cook solely with it.

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Garnish with chopped cilantro, fresh grated coconut and yogurt or a lime wedge.