Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Eggless Chocolate Chip Oat & Whole Wheat Snack Bars

   One place I really would love to get lost in is a good supermarket. A good book store would not be a  bad idea either. Buying monthly grocery is a family shopping expedition. The kids love to come along and pick up their allowed quota of snacks. While hubby is not totally opposed to the idea of including cookies and the kind in the cart, I can be irritatingly hesitant and stingy here. Of course, I do buy, but a few as lifesavers. I do not like the thought of the kids having easy access to these things or consuming them on a regular basis. By my own admission I am a wicked mom. I really like schools which do not allow junk food to be brought to school except on a certain day of the week. The kids started to eat on their own when they turned two or so. I do not believe in running behind them and feeding them. They need to feed themselves if hungry. If I see a tantrum coming during a meal, I carry on with mine. If they are not 'hungry' as the food on the table isn't appealing enough to them, too bad, they can eat the same thing when they are really hungry later. I do give up and give in sometimes when I don't feel up to it or when me or the kids one of us is unwell. I know, I know, I won't get voted as the Best Fun-to-be-with Mom, but I guess I can live with it.

But then I am human and one with a huge sweet tooth and an insane urge to bake at that. I  try to space out my indulgent bakes, a good portion of these (unless its breads) are a good number of times meant to be given away with us consuming a part of it. Along with indulgent baking, am looking out for healthy whole grain bakes too, now more than ever. 

 I dread surprise guests for two reasons - one is the predictable swept-by-a-tornado look of our place, second - I am extremely poor in stocking up on snacks. I am not proud of this but I am not a very organized person and no snacks on hand sometimes lands me in difficult situations. Specially when I get up late and find no time to dish up something for the snack break at school. Since my kids are sadly not much of fruit eaters, its all the more challenging to provide healthy snacks. And those which can be made ahead and stored are real life savers. I would vote for the home made ones anytime as you would know what has gone into it. And you have the luxury of tweaking it to your taste and preference of sugar and fat too. I was glad I tried the Chocolate Chip Oat Engery Bars from Deeba's gorgeous Passionate About Baking. Great for snacking, healthy too. And offers room for variations. I made them with whole wheat and replaced the egg. The Eggless Chocolate Chip Oat And Whole Wheat Snack Bars are a hit with my kids and am looking forward to make these again.

Friday, May 27, 2011

No Knead Focaccia - Super Quick, Easy Easy And Yumm!!

This flat bread has been on my do-to list since quite sometime. What was not on my to-do list today was a post on my blog. But I baked this super easy and quick No Knead Focaccia today and am so very happy and impressed, I have to have to share this with you and TODAY! There are somethings which have to go into the oven within a few hours of seeing a post, in this case No Knead Coconut And Chillies Flatbread on Champa's blog. The flavors of lime, coconut milk and chillies in a focaccia was too much to resist and I had to get this into my oven and FAST! So yesterday was again one of those days when I did not have my system at home as the hard disk decided to crash bang in the mid of  a busy week day. I knew I would be jobless at least half the morning, so was all set to bake the focaccia. I don't use a laptop (I prefer the desktop, more sturdy with kids running around), hence normally write down the recipes in a book and then bake. Struggled with hubby's HTC that evening, braved the touch screen (yeah, you now believe, folks like me actually do exist in this age of technology!) and wrote down the recipe.

The recipe is a dream, just mix everything together, beat 20 strokes with a wooden spoon, let it rest for an hour in the baking tin and then bake. That's it!!! Isn't that real easy and quick? If everything had gone right, you would have seen this post on my blog yesterday instead of today. Errr.. I had made one small mistake while noting down the temperature, doubt crept in while the dough was resting. Panic calls to hubby and brother to please help me in that grave emergency situation - all they had to do was confirm the baking temperature. Al right, I would have to spell out the name of the blog, etc etc. All they had to do was pause the office work for a few minutes, search a bit, read the recipe and tell me the temperature. But hubby's terse "Am in a meeting, will call you back' and brother's SMS '' Can I do this after an hour" left me no choice but to bake at that wrong temperature (kick-myself, kick -myself moment) and mess up with the result.

So today, yours truly just HAD to bake again today and am I so very glad I baked this!! I loved the bread, the texture and the taste. I would have loved it to have more holes in it like Champa's focaccia, but then I know I am being really greedy now. Well, so many more focaccias to be baked, so many more chances. This again is one of those breads apt for a beginner. If you are a beginner looking for an easy and impressive bread to bake for your unexpected guests, this is THE one.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Practice 'Buttercream'

Picture this - I bake a cake, spread the cream, then decorate. I fantasize about piping the frosting in a stunning new design (hopefully!!). Cold feet, jitters...do I really dare to try a new tip or design? What if the tip does not give the design or effect I aim at? Can't risk the cake looking like a child has tried to pipe it, right? Yes, so pipe the same old thing again. Do you feel like this too? Or are you an artist who would love to pipe designs away just for the fun and creative aspect of it? And without  preparing a real cake and the real, edible butter cream again and again just for the practice?  Wouldn't it be great to have a 'butter cream' which can be made and stored for a year? Something that can be prepared, used and reused for practicing piping techniques. A 'butter cream' which will help us better the art of piping decorations. Yes, Practice 'Butter Cream'!!

Have you heard of this before? You would have, if you have attended a cake decorating course. I read about this for the first time in The Cake Bible by Rose Beranbaum. Lot of us love to decorate our cakes, but not everyone has an artistic free hand. And if there is a competition for clumsy art, I would be adjudged the first unanimously!! I have baked and decorated a few cakes over the years and have longed to try different tips, different designs while piping frosting on a cake. But as you have seen, I have stuck to the boring same old tips and piped them the same way again and again.. yaaawn!!

This 'butter cream' is made of solid vegetable shortening, sugar, corn syrup and water. I guess you can't dip your finger in the cream and lick it as you pipe or while you clean the bowl and pasty bags. Don't even attempt to eat it. Nope its not fatal to eat  it. But I guess you may not become a raving fan of the very sweet greasy vegetable shortening either.

But since the objective here is the functionality and not taste, I am for once very happy to say - never mind how it tastes, just go ahead and make this for just practice. The icing on the cake (literally) will be the eye appeal of your real decorated cake later...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Putanipudi Kosambari

  Its amazing how smells are associated with memories, sometimes pleasant and sometimes unpleasant.  I am sitting under a fan whirring at full speed in the heat of North Karnataka when I smell Rasna and Kissan squashes. The smell of new books and chalk dust transport me to school, the smell of Johnson's baby powder brings back memories of my kids as babies. The smell of mangoes and jasmine remind me of festivals, specially Ramanavami.

During festivals and on auspicious occasions, its common tradition to invite married women for arishina-kunkuma or haldi-kumkum. Fruit, kosambari, kumkum, betel leaves and betel nuts, glass bangles, blouse pieces, coconut, flowers, coins are commonly given, the entire set of things called as a tambula or ele adike. A glass of cold panaka or juice is also offered along with a hand made fan. When refrigerators weren't yet a common household appliance, the panaka would be kept cold, with a wet cloth wrapped around the vessel of juice. The dripping wet cloth dries in no time in the heat, making it necessary to wet it all over again. Offering  panaka and the hand fan symbolize soothing people during the hot summer, thereby symbolizing a deed of punya.

Kosambari is a kind of salad usually made of soaked moong dal, or chana dal or sprouts, seasoned with green chillies, hing, salt, oil, mustard seeds, curry leaves and lemon juice garnished with the quintessential grated fresh coconut and chopped fresh coriander. Chopped cucumber or grated carrot are sometimes added. This salad is a very essential part of a traditional South Indian meal, makes a very tasty, nutritious and filling snack when eaten on its own. When offered as part of  tambula, its served on betel or badam  leaves or a donne (a kind of container made of dried leaves). Of course its now served most of the times in plastic containers for ease and convenience.

One kind of kosambari popular in North Karnataka is Putanipudi Kosambari. Roasted Bengal gram is called as putani in some parts of North Karnataka. Its also called as hurigadale. Pudi means powder. In this particular preparation, its coarsely powdered, mixed with fresh coconut, cucumber and seasoned. This again can be eaten by itself and also as an accompaniment  to hot rice and ghee.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Everyday Chocolate Bread

General conversation at home in the morning. Kids, while I am trying to get them out of bed and ready for school - ''What's for short break and what's for lunch?''

In a few seconds you will decide that I am not one of those good mothers who will first ask the kids about Homework etc when they come back from school. Most of the times (unless I sense that my child is unwell) the first thing I ask the kids when they come back from school - ''Did u enjoy the snack/ lunch?' Getting up early sometimes makes me envy mothers who send kids to school which provide breakfast and lunch. But then, I would not like them not eating home food for the big part of the day. And the pleasure of packing home made treats for them. Knowing that they looked forward to the lunch break. I actually would be disappointed if my son's classmates did not demand that he HAS to get cake for the class party. And equally disappointed if my son did not insist that I MUST bake for his class party, birthday etc.

Foodie kids and a bigger incorrigible foodie Mom - Big food situations - all the time. Hubby not to be left far behind likes to eat dessert after dinner everyday - no I don't make dessert everyday though I would love to...as I would love to eat something sweet after every meal and also sometimes in between;-). Only my super sensitive weighing scales play spoil sport and always show me the numbers I hate. If only I could think of the number I see on the scales as my IQ:-))). Well, reality makes me save that joke for encouraging dietitians and get back to sane cooking and baking, indulgences once in a while or to be shared ASAP.

And then some things which are relatively healthy, yet good enough to make the kids get out of bed in the morning. Like an Everyday Chocolate Bread. I made it with half of APF and half of whole wheat. Chocolaty enough and not very sweet. A great bread for the snack box or Sunday morning special breakfast treat. A make ahead breakfast at that which gives me the much needed sleep in. Happy kids, happy Mom:-)

Sharing my very tiny moment of glory, I have been featured a magazine Time Out Bengaluru in their Food&Drinks section. Here is a view..

I had never in my widest dreams thought I will appear in a magazine as 'me', though in a very small way. A big thank you for your messages on FB, you guys and Time Out Bengaluru really, really made my day!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Crisp Spicy Flatbread - Crackers??

Now, now before you navigate away from this page as you may not find the picture above super appealing - wait!! What you see here is crispy flat bread which is quite easy to make and tastes very good...I will not say that these are low fat and healthy since they are not really that. Relatively low in fat, yes. High on taste. Will take you less than 10 minutes to get from no-plans-to-bake to have-dough-ready-to-bake. Roll them and transfer them on aluminum foils and bake them one by one while you get on with the rest of your kitchen chores. And you have a nice small stack of crispy flat bread. Or should we call them crackers? Well, as long you like the taste, you don't really care to get into the small technical details. Agree with me? Yes, so now that we agree on this very important thing, and I have hopefully sold you the idea of reading the rest of this post, let me tell you more about these.

Again one of those versatile things which will allow you to flavor them as you fancy - aaah, the magic and the best, best thing about home-baking! We can bake whatever we please and however we please. If you could see me now, I look - right - very smug:-). Khakra with Italian seasoning anyone? Yes, these crispy things tasted almost like that! And these can be made 2 days ahead and stored...locked away safely in a box and the keys thrown in..in..well, wherever you can't fish them out very easily.

I have made these twice, once with jeera, turmeric and kasuri methi, they tasted yumm, but did not look very good. So no pictures for the blog. Then on a insane urge, I baked these again, late in the night (I really don't know why!). The flat bread turned out tasty and decent looking too. But I had no suitable box to save them in their 'full' unbroken glory, so took pics in poor nightlight. Well, can't wait till I bake these yet again, take better pics and post them right? But when I make these next, I will take pics again and sneak-replace them;-)

You could make these for a tea time snack, for your home party to go with a nice dip... Suitably seasoned, these can go well with Mint Chutney, Hummus, Creamy Dips or just seasoned hung curd. I seasoned these crackers with mixed Italian seasoning, garlic powder and chilli flakes. And did not really bother with the dip..

I seriously, seriously love Deb's humor, love her recipes. Hers is one of those blogs which I LOVE to visit every now and then. So presenting, Crisp Spicy Flat Bread from Smitten Kitchen.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Coffee Cream Cake - For Me !

It has been a few years since I have been baking birthday cakes for my kids, hubby and family. But you could easily say and I would concede that I have really been really baking and learning only in the past 15 months. Yes, since I started to blog. In all these years, I have baked cakes for everyone except me! Somehow, baking for my birthday has never been part of the plans. Nope I haven't even bought a cake from the bakery either for no particular reason. Am not a party person either, and don't believe in having a lot of people over for the day. So its always just us, having a quiet meal out. Hubby though insists that I don't cook and he will buy me breakfast, lunch and dinner out. Did I tell you, he can't cook anything decent to save his life? Except Maggi and rice of course from his bachelor days. Both of these don't really have foodie me drooling uncontrollably. And I just can't eat all three meals in a day and actually enjoy each meal. But I do look forward to the meal out followed by a good dessert.

This year however, we had done a lot of eating out as my sister was visiting and I did not want to eat out anymore. People do feel that way when they reach the grand old age of 35?? Gosh! I really am growing old! And the bright spot of my birthday this year - I had decided that I would surely bake myself a cake, no matter what. My birthday was on a Monday, I spent Saturday and Sunday noon at my parent's place and excused myself for Sunday evening as I had to bake a cake and for me. My family has now realized how futile it can be to talk me out of my baking plans and we headed home. Oh I had to get the whipping cream to thaw and chill, then whip, bake the cake, cool it, fill and frost and then allow it to sit overnight in the fridge - the last in the process an absolute must, must!  Came back home, settled kids down and started the process which ended quite late in the night when I sleepily, finally pushed the almost done cake in the fridge. The decoration would be taken care of in the morning...

Thankfully, one part I did not have to spend time on was deciding what cake I would be baking - or I can be extremely indecisive about this too (among other things). I had decided long back that I would be baking myself a Coffee Cream Cake.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Green Apple Sasuve - Green Apple in Sweet & Sour Coconut & Mustard Sauce

Apples -To most of us in India, it meant one hugely popular variety of fruit- red, crisp, juicy and sweet. Most of the times eaten as a snack. Then often used in crumbles, pies, fruit based custards and other desserts. And now with Washington Apples offering a wide variety of apples in different colors, taste and textures, we have apples which are sweet and buttery, apples which are tart and hold their shape when baked, apples which are mildly sweet etc etc. So apart from snacking on this delicious fruit, we can add apples in our salads, soups, chutneys, desserts and also a whole lot of dishes we eat on a daily basis, including our traditional recipes. Yes, we are now spoilt for choice even while buying the ubiquitous apple! 

Washington apples come in different varieties such as Red Delicious - bright red with a mildy sweet flavor. Suitable for snacking and for use in salads. Golden Delicious -Sweet again. Can be used for baking, snacking and in salads. Granny Smith - green colored, tart, crisp and juicy, you could use them in cooking, baking and in salads. Gala - apples with pinkish orange stripes, crisp and sweet. I absolutely LOVE this variety for snacking. Fuji - These are supposed to be super sweet, crisp and hard textured, retain their shape when cooked making them ideal for baking - I must, must try a crumble with this one now!! And then there is Honeycrisp which is tangy sweet, suitable for snacking and baking, Cripps Pink which is firm and tangy tart,  Cameo which is sweet and crunchy and holds it texture for long. Whoa - isn't that quite a range?

The taste factor apart, apples are antioxidant rich, have high fiber content, have almost no fat and no cholesterol. They can help lower your risk of heart disease, aid digestion and weight loss and also help prevent colon cancer.

Thanks to The SCS Group who organized an event on Washington Apples, we got an invite for a live cooking demonstration of Washington Apples by Chef Vicky Ratnani at 100 ft Boutique restaurant, Indiranagar. Chef Vicky demonstrated a Colonial Apple and Pumpkin Bisque - different varieties of apples and pumpkin cooked with herbs and Madras Rasam powder and it tasted too good (surprisingly so, I must admit, given the unusual elements in it)!! We ate an Apple and Jackfruit salad which was just as good and then a Green Apple Risotto with hazelnuts. We won't leave without eating a dessert, will we - we had Apple Crumble with Ice cream.

                                                            Picture courtesy - Shubhada

The best thing about such events is it really does widen your horizons about cooking. Reading and knowing that you can use apples in different ways is so different from actually tasting a variety of dishes made with apples. Now am really really going to be doing my homework before I go apple shopping for what variety of apples I could buy and what I could make out of it. Eating this very healthy fruit on a regular basis need no longer be monotonous. 

Since Granny Smith apples are tart and crisp, I have used this in a traditional recipe suitable for sweet-sour fruit...So here's to more of apples in our diet and with so many possibilities.. Here I have used it in a dish called as Sasuve, basically a dish made with ground coconut and mustard, usually made with a sweet-sour vegetable or fruit... The recipe Green Apple Sasuve.