Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cranberry Muffins

Cranberry is a fall/winter berry that is really tart. In fact it is the only berry whose tartness increases as it ripens. It is typically paired with nuts or orange juice to bring out its flavor. My daughter does not like nuts in recipes so I usually leave them out.

During Thanksgiving we usually have family visiting us. While the focus is on the main Thanksgiving spread it is nice to have snacks and some goodies prepared for the other meals. These muffins are great for breakfast or a snack.

Recipe adapted from here
You will need
2 tbsp. butter, softened
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
a pinch salt
1 cup cranberries, chopped coarsely
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped coarsely (I skipped them)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl combine the butter with the sugar. Add the egg and whisk using an electric blender or a whisk. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the milk and the flour alternately to the butter mixture. Add the cranberries and the nuts, if you are using them.

Combine using a spatula and transfer to a greased 6 muffin pan.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Transfer to a cooling rack. Muffins taste best when hot.


This is my entry for week four, day two of BM #46 for the theme Festivals. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#46.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mini Pumpkin Tart

Pumpkin is available in abundance during the fall season and it features prominently in Thanksgiving menus. Pumpkins can be used for savory as well as sweet dishes. This pumpkin tart makes a perfect dessert. The recipe makes one mini tart.

The crust on the tart is made with ginger snaps. It is just as delicious as the filling and complements the pumpkin perfectly. I baked ginger snaps for this recipe. But before I knew it they were all gone. Luckily my daughter had put two ginger snaps in a little box to take to school as a snack and had forgotten about them. I used those two for the crust. I had to supplement them with two digestive biscuits. Digestive biscuits are mildly flavored and did not affect the taste. Ginger snap recipe will be a future post.

You can increase the recipe four times to make a regular sized tart. I used applesauce in place of an egg in this recipe. The applesauce sufficed as this is a one serving portion. If you want to bake a tart in a regular tart dish then you will have to use two egg in place of the applesauce.

You will need (for one mini tart)
For the crust
5 ginger snaps (or 2 ginger snaps and 2 digestive biscuits)
2 tbsp. butter, melted

For the filling
3 tbsp. pumpkin puree
2 tbsp. condensed milk
1 tbsp. applesauce
1 pinch cinnamon powder
1 pinch clove powder
a pinch of salt

To make the crust preheat the oven to 375 F. Place your tart dish on a baking sheet.

Crumble the cookies on a flat surface. Pound with a pestle or roll over with a rolling pin to crush the cookies to a near powder. Do not crush them too fine. Mix in the melted butter. Transfer to the tart dish and push down to form an even layer along the bottom and sides. Bake for 5-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool completely.

Mix the ingredients for the filling in a bowl.

Transfer to the cooled crust. Ensure you leave an edge of the crust above the filling so it does not overflow.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the filling sets and turns a light brown color.

Cool in the refrigerator overnight.


This is my entry for week four, day two of BM #46 for the theme Festivals. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#46.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Fall Harvest Bread / Wheat Sheaf Bread

Bread made to look like a sheaf of wheat is a classic way to celebrate fall. I wanted to try my hand at making this traditional fall harvest bread. I added a mouse under the tie when I found that it is customary to add a mouse to the sheaf. I think is reason behind it is rather interesting. The mouse seeks shelter in the fields, when harvested the shelter is destroyed so the mouse is brought home with the sheaf.

I love fall. I love the beautiful colors, the cooler temperatures and the holiday season starting with Ganesh Chaturthi, Dasara, Diwali and finally Thanksgiving. Today I am posting my version of the fall harvest bread. I looked at pictures online and created this piece entirely on my own. Even the dough is mixed using bakers percentages and my gut feeling of the hydration level I would need.

To shape this bread I knew I would need a stiff dough. I started with 200 gm of whole wheat flour. I decided to keep hydrated at 70%. A added a tablespoon of butter and appropriate proportions of salt and yeast. I also added some sugar and substituted half the water with milk. I layered cinnamon sugar between the wheat stalk and the base of the bread so I could enjoy it with a cup of tea.

You will need
200 gm whole white wheat flour
6 gm salt
5 gm yeast
1 tsp. cinnamon powder
3 tbsp sugar
80 gm cold milk
40 gm cold water
1 tbsp. butter at room temperature

1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. sugar

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Add the wet ingredients.

Mix together to form a stiff dough. Knead well for 5 minutes. Cover and keep aside for an hour until soft. Break away about 30% of the dough. Keep the rest covered. Roll out the cut portion into a the shape of a skinny mushroom. This is the base on which the bread is built.

Mix together the cinnamon powder and sugar for the topping and sprinkle over the the base. If you want you could mix the mixture with some melted butter and then spread it all over the base.

Now start cutting small portions of dough and rolling them thin to form the stalks. Vary the length slightly and width. Place then randomly over the base. Next cut additional pieces and roll them into cylinders. Using a kitchen shear snip away at the cylinder to form the tops of the stalk. Place these around the top of the mushroom head. Then add a few more lower near the stalks. Keep some pointed up, some bend over to create variety. Roll a couple of thin ropes and place then around the seed heads. Cut three pieces and create a braid. Place it as seen in the picture. Create mouse with two tiny pieces of dough. Attach a tail and place the mouse on the sheaf.

Preheat oven to 425 F. Cover and allow to rise for 20 minutes. Wash with milk and bake for 10 minutes. Lower heat to 375 F and bake another 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Enjoy the harvest bread. You could use it as a centerpiece on your Thanksgiving table or you could eat it with your cup of tea.

This is my entry for week four, day one of BM #46 for the theme Festivals. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#46.

This is my entry for week 46 of the 2014 52 week challenge.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Vegetarian Calzone

Calzone is a pizza folded in half with the stuffing inside. I make calzones as a variation of pizza and bake them in my cast iron pan. My daughter loves them. In fact she was so hungry when I made these, I forgot to press the edges with the tines of the fork to give it a decorative edge. There was no difference in taste, though, and the calzone was gone pretty quickly.

I use the same wild yeast leavened dough as I use for my regular pizza. The taste is great and filling choices are endless.You can use any vegetables you like. Since the dough is folded in half you can vegetables that you might no use on regular pizza. It is a lot easier to use mozzarella cheese as you do not have to watch it as much as you do on a regular pizza. Just add a little shredded cheese and pizza sauce with the vegetables. I used my go to recipe for pizza sauce.

Calzones are very filling as they have close to twice the quantity of dough in each slice. Making thin crust helps in reducing the amount of dough.

You will need
200 gm ball of pizza dough (I used this recipe)
1 medium onion
12-15 leaves spinach
1 tomato
3 tbsp pizza sauce
3 tbsp shredded parmesan cheese

Slice the onion and saute on medium heat to caramelize it. Keep it aside. Cut the tomato in half and drain the seeds and juice. Slice and keep aside. Wash and dry the spinach leaves. Break them into pieces.

Preheat oven to 425 F. Get you cast iron pan out and keep it ready. Flour working surface and transfer the ball of dough to it. Using floured hands work the dough until you a flat disc. Follow instructions here. Place the pizza base in the cast iron pan. Add the caramelized onion, spinach, tomato and shredded cheese to one half leaving about an inch on all sides.

Add the tomato sauce over the top.

Fold the pizza base in half to form the calzone. Seal the edges.

Using a sharp blade make three cuts on the flap to allow steam to escape.

Bake for 10 minutes. If you like a brown crust rub a little butter over the top and bake for another 15 minutes.

The calzone is done. Cut it as needed.


This is my entry for week three, day two of BM #46 for the theme Pizza and Pasta. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#46.

Also sending this to Kid's Delight hosted this month by Mir.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fruit Dessert Pizza and First Blog Anniversary

I started this blog seven years ago but had to abandon it when life got really busy. I started blogging in earnest last year. One year and 500 odd recipes later here I am celebrating my blog's first 'real' anniversary. I decided I had to post something sweet to mark such a sweet milestone. So today I am posting the recipe for dessert pizza. I also thought it would be very appropriate to set myself a new challenge. A food photography challenge. This is a challenge for anyone who likes to click pictures of food and is working to get better at it. More about that here. Moving to the recipe for the day.

When my daughter was in 1st grade Pizza Hut was running a reading initiative and awarded pizza hut child buffet coupons. My daughter won a few and we used a couple of them. The pizza she loved the most was the dessert pizza. Today I have recreated that pizza using cinnamon apples.

You will need
For the base
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. instant yeast

For the topping
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. all purpose flour
a pinch cinnamon powder
a pinch nutmeg
a pinch salt

For the crumb topping
2 tbsp. all purpose flour
2 tbsp. rolled oats
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. butter
a pinch cinnamon

For the glaze
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. butter
1 couple drops vanilla extract

To make the base mix all the ingredients in a bowl except the water. Heat the water so it is lukewarm. Add the water to the flour and form a soft dough. Knead well and keep aside overnight.

To make the topping add all the ingredients for the topping to a pan and heat it until the apples are soft and the sugar has melted, about 3-5 minutes.

Combine all the ingredients for the crumb topping in a separate bowl. Keep aside.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Flatten the pizza dough with your knuckles. Form a wide disc by running the edges through your fingers. Work till the disc is the size of your pizza pan. Place it on the pan and prick with the tines of a fork. Bake it for 4-5 minutes. Take it out of the oven and spread the apple mixture over the top. Next spread the crumb mixture over the apples.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until.

Combine all the ingredients for the glaze and drizzle it over the top. You could use less milk and make the glaze thicker if you want.

Leftover pizza can be refrigerated and eaten over two or three days.


This is my entry for week three, day one of BM #46 for the theme Pizza and Pasta. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#46.

Also sending this to Kid's Delight hosted this month by Mir.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

First Blog Anniversary Food Photography Event

I am celebrating the first anniversary of my blog with a food photography challenge. Food photography is a big part of food blogging so I decided to celebrate this event with a food photography challenge.

Most of us are learning to use our camera and all the settings it provides. Some of us are experts and take awesome pictures. Sometimes we make elaborate plans for a pictures and it turns out just perfect. Some other times we click in a hurry and end up with a perfect shot. I am asking you to share this perfect shot with all of us.

It would be nice to see a gallery of great food pictures and read about why the photographer considers the picture to be their best for this month.

The rules of the challenge are simple.
  1. Select your best food picture (just one) from a post dated between November 17th and December 17th 2014. If you like you can have a separate post just for the picture.
  2. Place this picture as the first picture on the blog post.
  3. Write a little about the picture, your props, lighting, camera setting or anything else that makes you feel this is your best for the month.
  4. Link back to this page in your post.
  5. Submit this picture using the linky tool below by the 17th of December.
At the end of the month I will post a round up of all the pictures submitted.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Upasachi Batatyachi Bhaji / Potato Peanuts Side

This bhaji is called upasachi or fasting but it is not necessarily made for fasting. In fact I do not remember fasting a lot while growing up. This simple potato and peanut side is one of my favorite and I make it often. The roasted peanut powder adds a lovely flavor that makes this dish special.

This is another of my mother's recipes and it is a very simple one. She used to give it to me as part of my packed lunch. Back then we used to share a part of our lunch with our friends. And the tastier your lunch was the better the bargaining power. My mother's chapati's were always sought after. And this was one bhaji that my friends loved. When I had this in my lunchbox I could exchange it for anything from anybody in my class.

I cooked the potato in a microwave. If you do not want to use the microwave you could cook it in a pressure cooker with the peel and a little bit of water. Once cooked peel while it is still warm and dice.

You will need
1 large russet potato
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
1 tbsp. olive oil or vegetable oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 green chili pepper (I used Serrano)
1/2 tsp. sugar
salt to taste

Wash and scrub the potato to remove all the dirt from the surface. Prick all over with the tines of a fork. Place it in the microwave with a cup 3/4 full of water and cook for 2 minutes. Turn the potato upside down and cook again for 2 minutes. Repeat one more time. Cover in aluminium foil with the peel intact and leave it on the kitchen counter for at least 15 minutes or until needed.

In a grinder grind the roasted peanuts to a coarse powder. Keep aside. Take the potato out of the aluminium foil. Peel and dice it. Heat oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds. When they sizzle break up the chili pepper into pieces and add them to the oil. Next add the diced potato. Cook covered for a minute.

Add the peanut powder, sugar and salt to taste. Mix everything together, cover and cook for a couple minutes.

You cannot miss the aroma of the roasting peanuts. When they change color turn off the heat.


This is my entry for week two, day three of BM #46 for the theme No onion no garlic sides. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#46.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Authentic Palakachi Patal Bhaji / Spinach Buttermilk Side

Palakachi patal bhaji is a traditional delicacy. The gravy is made of buttermilk and besan (bengal gram flour). For it to be called perfect there are a bunch of rules. The consistency should be thick and viscous such that it can be scooped up like a liquid but it should not be liquid enough to pour. When a spoon is dipped in the gravy and held up spinach should not hang from the sides. The spinach though cut into pieces should become one with the gravy. It should however, retain its green color. When served on a plate it should not be runny or water should not separate and run from the sold mass. Whole peanuts and channa dal (split bengal gram) are added to the gravy. The peanuts and dal should retain its shape but should be very soft, not crunchy.

Maharastrian food has to have a balance of all the flavors - tangy, sweet, hot (as in pepper heat) and savory. Based on personal preference one or the other flavor may be stronger than others. Tamarind juice and jaggery is usually added to gravies. Lemon juice and sugar are alternatives. Tamarind juice is not added to this spinach bhaji as the buttermilk provides the tangy flavor. Jaggery is never used with buttermilk so sugar is added to provide the sweet flavor. This may sound like a lot of rules but if they are followed the food tastes delicious. Besides if you cook this food often it becomes a matter of habbit.

Patal bhaji literally means a sides with a liquid gravy. Most greens can be cooked this way. In fact the most delicious of them all is aluchi (patra/arabi/colocassia) bhaji. I did not get fresh alu today so that will be another post. Alu bhaji is not cooked in buttermilk. Neither is methi. Spinach is one of the exceptions as buttermilk is supposed to bring out the flavor in spinach. Patal bhaji taste best with bhajri (millet) or jwari (sorghum) bhakri. We had it with chapati. Once I get my dry grinder I will have fresh flour to make the bhakri.

It takes a lot of time to get this dish right. It took me a better part of the hour. My husband said I should have just run the blanched spinach thorough a blender, consistency issue solved. That is usually my quick and easy way out but the appearance is altered. And today I wanted to post the authentic traditional recipe. After all that I was not happy when the weather refused to co-operate. It was a cloudy day that got dark and gloomy by the time I was done. Weather service called for rain the next day. So the pictures were taken under my kitchen lights.

You will need
1/2 cup peanuts
1/2 cups channa dal (split bengal gram)
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tbsp. dry coconut flakes
2 large bunches spinach (I used baby spinach)
3 tbsp. besan (channa dal flour)
2 cups buttermilk
3-5 cups water
1 tsp. cayenne pepper powder (red chili pepper powder)
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. garam masala

For the tempering
1 tbsp. olive oil (vegetable oil)
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1 green chili pepper (you can use more to increase the heat)
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1/4 tsp. asafoetida

Soak the peanuts and channa dal in water for 3-4 hours. Pressure cook for 10 minutes (3 whistles) until soft. Roast the cumin and coconut flakes in a pan. Cool, grind to a powder and keep aside until needed.

Heat the water in a large pan. Wash and clean the spinach. Drain out all the water. Let it dry enough to be handled and cut without bruising. Align a bunch of leaves together and cut as fine as you can. Repeat for all the leaves. Soft and tender stem can be used if diced finely. Blanch the diced spinach in the hot water for a couple of minutes using a fine mesh sieve. Reserve the water.

In a large pan add the cooked peanuts and channa dal. Add the blanched spinach and put it on low heat. Whisk the channa dal flour in the buttermilk such that there are no lumps and add it to the spinach. Add another 3 cups of reserved blanched spinach water. The spinach should be completely submerged and the liquid should be runny. Add more water if needed. Bring it to a boil stirring frequently. When it is at a full boil increase the heat to high.

Let the spinach mixture cook until the liquid reduces and thickens. Add the salt, sugar and cayenne pepper powder. Add the garam masala and the cumin and coconut flake powder. Continue to cook until the consistency is that of a very viscous liquid.

In a separate pan heat the olive oil. Add the mustard seeds. When they crackle turn off the heat. Add the fenugreek seeds and green chilis. You can break up the chilis or slit them so that they flavor the oil. When the seeds and chilis sizzle add the turmeric powder and asafoetida.

Add the tempering to the gravy. Bring it to a boil.

Turn of the heat. Tastes best with bhajri (millet) or jwari (sorghum) bhakri. We had it with chapati.


This is my entry for week one, day two of BM #46 for the theme No onion no garlic. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#46.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Chavlichi Usal / Black Eyed Peas No-onion No-garlic Curry

A gravy based Maharashtrian side made with fresh or dried peas or beans is called usal. Dried peas or beans are soaked overnight and pressure cooked before being used. Fresh peas or beans do not need to be precooked. Though this dish can be added as a side to a fancy meal or thali it is basically a simple weeknight recipe.

This is my mother's recipe. She used to cook black eyed peas or chavli with a fresh coconut and cilantro gravy. This gravy can be used for mung or matar (green peas). I remember every Sunday morning when my Dad was not travelling he would go grocery shopping for vegetables. Sometimes I used to accompany him. We did not eat a lot of coconut but when this dish was on the weekly menu we bought fresh coconut. I remember cutting it open with a sharp sickle. I used to pull out the dry coconut fibers to give me a smooth brown coat. My mother insisted I should not pull the fibers on the edges. I would use water to paint a ring around the middle of the coconut. I truly believe that helped me cut the coconut exactly in half. I then used the sickle to break the coconut. I would collect the water in a cup and hand the coconut halves to my mother. The cup of coconut water was the reward for my efforts.

Back to the recipe

You wull need
1 cup dry black eyed peas
1/2 cup fresh shredded coconut (I used frozen)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 green chili pepper (adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds (optional)
1 tbsp. olive oil or vegetable oil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1/4 tsp. asafoetida
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper powder
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. sugar
salt to taste

Soak the peas overnight in water such that they are completely submerged. Drain the water the next morning to get rid of the phytic acid. Pressure cook for 5 minutes. Keep aside to let the pressure subside.

Meanwhile grind to a paste the shredded coconut, cilantro, cumin seeds and green chili pepper in a grinder with a little water.

Heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. when they crackle turn down the heat to low and add the asafoetida and turmeric powder. Now add the ground masala paste and let it heat completely. Do not let it boil, cilantro paste does not do well when boiled.

Reserve the water the peas were cooked in and add the peas to the pan. Add just enough of the cooking water to form a thick gravy.

Let it simmer until the water evaporates and the gravy thickens some more.

Add the salt, sugar, garam masala and cayenne pepper. After a couple more minutes turn off the heat.


This is my entry for week two, day one of BM #46 for the theme No onion no garlic sides. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#46.