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Saturday, 25 July 2015

Apricot and Blueberry Bundt cake: Baking with Summer Fruits


I wonder what's good about Summer? 
Its so hot in Texas right now that you feel as if your life is ebbing out of you due to the heat. Even the setting sun does not bring one any relief from the sultriness of the summer heat. The heat makes one feel tired and and sluggish all the time, making one want to stay cooped up within the realms of your air-conditioned comforts inside your house. Boy!! How much I envy all those guys who have a pool in their backyards to cool off anytime they want. How good it would be to come back from a run and jump right into the cool inviting waters? Wow!! Just the very thought of it is so comforting. Definitely on our agenda whenever we are on a lookout to rent our next house.
Though coming from India I shouldn't be complaining about the heat as supposedly I should have been used to this kind of climate having lived there and experienced a similar kind of climate all my life. Really summers in Delhi have a bad reputation and you do not even have fully air-conditioned houses as here in Houston and not to forget the long long power cuts!! But what we did have back there was the convenience of ordering groceries on your phone and having them delivered right onto your doorstep instead of venturing out in the heat and lugging it all back yourself. What a luxury that was!!
Then what does one have to look forward to in Summers? What I love about Summers are the summer fruits.The grocery stores are stocked up with every kind of wonderful fruits that I love. Peaches and plums, apricots, blueberries, raspberries, watermelons, strawberries are the top favorite amongst the other fruits available and are usually almost always stocked up in my house. These Summer fruits not only taste great eaten raw but I also love to use them for making icecreams, smoothies, sauces and cakes. See my recipe for blueberry muffins
In this recipe too, I have used fresh blueberries and apricots. It is a very easy recipe to put together and the end result is a superbly moist cake with a light crumb. The cake not only looks beautiful with the vibrant burst of violet colors from the fresh blueberries but tastes great too. The best part is that it is not overtly sweet and the tart lemon glaze beautifully complements the flavors adding a lovely zing to the taste. 
Definitely on my make again list.
Ingredients
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
11/2 cups whole wheat flour
11/2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
11/3 cup buttermilk (I added 2 tsp vinegar to 1 cup milk instead)
6 Tbsp Canola oil
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups apricot, pitted and halved (Use tinned apricots is you like)
6 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup confectioners icing
Method
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 12 cup bundt pan with a baking spray or lightly coat it with oil and sprinkle lightly with flour.
In a bowl combine the eggs and sugar. With an electric mixer whisk the eggs for a couple of minutes till light and frothy.
Add in the buttermilk, oil and vanilla extract and mix well.
Sieve together whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and add in to the above mixture. Beat on medium speed for about a minute till combined well.
Gently fold in the apricots and blueberries,
Pour into the bundt pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool completely in the pan before inverting onto a serving platter.
In a small bowl, combine the confectioner's sugar and lemon juice.
Drizzle the cake with the glaze over the top of the cake.
Slice and serve.

                           

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Watermelon Salad with Feta Cheese and Toasted Almonds....to beat the summer heat!!

Its hot, its muggy and really oppressive!! The weather recently has been behaving really badly. 
With the temperatures rising to almost 100 F, the heat has become unbearable. One step outside and it feels as if you could easily melt away under the glare of the scorching sun. In addition to guzzling down gallons of water to quench your thirst you feel like eating light food that doesn't leave you feeling heavy and drowsy. 
This refreshing Watermelon Salad with Feta cheese is the perfect solution to beat the summer heat. It is light, delicious and extremely refreshing. I also sprinkled some toasted almonds on top of the salad as I feel apart from raising the health quotient, the almonds lend a lovely crunch and add texture to the salad, which I just love. You can get more info about the great benefits of almond on your health here.
In addition to being eaten raw, almonds are a wonderful addition to your food. I add them all the time to my salads and baking. 
Did you know that almonds are high in mono-saturated fats (also found in olive oil) which has also been associated with reducing the risk of heart disease? Just a handful of nuts can pack quite a powerful punch. According to a survey, almonds contains the most fiber compared to other nuts and are richest in Vitamin-E. They are also really beneficial for people suffering from blood sugar as it helps to lower LDL cholesterol in the body and also help control the blood glucose levels. 
Let me also let you in another secret, according to one study by International Journal of Obesity, eating a handful of nuts daily may even help you slip into those skinny jeans!! Rich in fiber and protein, snacking on just a handful of nuts would help you feeling full and satisfied for a longer time so you would not have the urge to overeat.
So remember next time hunger pangs attack you, just go nuts!!.

Ingredients
5 cups seedless watermelon, cut into 11/4-inch chunks
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tsp salt
11/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped finely
1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

Method
Sprinkle the watermelon with 1 tsp salt and toss to blend; let stand for 15 minutes.
Add in the olive oil, vinegar and mint to the watermelon.
Season to taste with pepper and more salt with required.
Sprinkle with feta cheese and toasted almonds.
Serve chilled.

This post is in collaboration with Nuts.com,

Monday, 1 June 2015

How to boil potatoes in a Microwave: Recipes for the bachelor's kitchen

Today I am going to share with you the recipe for boiling potatoes. Seriously?? Boiled potatoes!! Are you actually hearing me right?
You must be thinking I have lost my mind and wondering what has come over me? Anyone can boil potatoes, right? Who in the right mind would need a recipe for a simple thing like that? 
Well!! Well!! There are some people out there in this world who do need to be taught the very basics. To elaborate better my dear hubby!! 
Sometimes you feel life just isn't fair!! We had barely settled down here in Houston when my husband got a transfer to Indianapolis to start work on a new project. He had to move alone so that both our children could continue with their education here, especially since my daughter has just finished her first semester of college. Moreover the new project is just for a year and a half, after which, most probably we would have to move again, so in everyone's best interest, me and the kids decided to stay back in Houston and poor hubby will have to so hop-scotching between here and Indianapolis. 
Like most wives, the foremost worry on my mind was about his food. Luckily the place he is staying at provides the breakfast and lunch would be at office but what about dinner? Till now he has never had to stay alone or having had to cook for himself. Sure, he has always been a good apprentice around the kitchen, cutting, chopping but never really cooked a meal all by himself. Its not that I am doubting his capabilities, he sure can whip up a mean omelet, but sadly it doesn't stretch to anything much beyond that.  And unfortunately, like most hotel rooms, there is only a microwave and a refrigerator in the room and of course 'someone' just cannot imagine an omelet can be made in it. 
Eating out everyday just did not seem a very healthy option, so while he was packing his stuff I coerced him (literally forced you can say) to take a microwave safe glass bowl and a wooden spoon so atleast some sort of a meal can be prepared. After reluctantly packing the utensils came a zillion queries of "how much of this" and "how much of that" and "how many minutes", "how will I come to know when its done"?
I thought of this easy option of putting the recipes down in a post so at least whenever he gets stuck anywhere it will be easy to look it up. As it is most of the time when one is cooking  at home you don't really keep the time and measurements in mind as most of the times you just learn to eyeball it especially after so many years of cooking.
So from now on, some of the recipes on my blog are going to be very basic, quick and easy to whip up with the minimalist of fuss and most of the cooking done in the microwave.(Somehow people have the misunderstanding that microwaves are really meant for reheating. You will be amazed at what all can be prepared in the microwave).
When you see them, you will know exactly whom these recipes are targeted at!!
I am very confident that this might be a wasted effort and most of this is actually never going to be really put into practice and know in my hearts of hearts that most of the time it is either going to be dining out or take-aways but a gal or should I say a wife got to do what she gotta do!!
So here is to my dear hubby and many others who have undertaken this brave attempt to put their first step into experiencing our wonderful world of creating magic in the kitchen!! You can do it man!!

Ingredients
4-5 potatoes (you can always boil extra and keep in the fridge handy for later use or just eat them sprinkled with salt and pepper.
A microwave safe bowl

Instructions  (I just love using this word, sounds so powerful, especially if your husband is reading it)
Wash the potatoes clean under running water in a sink until the dirt is washed off.
Place the potatoes in a microwave safe bowl. You can either put them whole or dice hem into 1 to 2 inch cubes.
Fill the bowl with water approximately 2 to 3 inches above the potatoes.
Add 1/4 tsp salt.
Spray the top with cooking spray or add 1 tsp vegetable oil to ensure the water doesn't boil over while cooking.
Do not cover. Cook the potatoes for 12-13 minutes.
You will know the potatoes are cooked when you can easily pierce them with a fork.
Remove them from hot water and they are ready to be eaten. 
Congrats!! Now that the potatoes are boiled, here are some quick and simple ideas what you can do with them.
-You can toss them with some butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper and you have a great dish on your hand.
-Toss boil potatoes with a couple of spoons of pesto(pesto paste easily available in any grocery store in the vegetable section) and a little salt to eat.
-Toss boil potatoes with a little extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, minced garlic (don't worry this too is easily available in jars in the vegetable section) and any fresh herbs of your choice like mint, coriander, dill, rosemary, thyme etc 
-Cream potatoes or mash them with a fork, add a tbsp of sour cream and chives (chopped green of spring onions) These are also great as a topping on a slice of bread or bagel.
-Cut the potatoes into 1 inch cube Take 2 Tbsp yogurt, 1 tbsp Mayonnaise, salt to taste and mix it well. Take 1/4 cup chopped onion and 1/4 cup thinly chopped celery. Now combine the potatoes, onions and celery in the mayonnaise mixture till well coated. We have a great potato salad on our hands.

Easy wasn't it?
Wow!! now that we are off to a good start, I am sure you are looking forward to many more easy peasy recipes to enjoy your culinary adventures and basically to survive in this Big, bad World!!
Here's to many more adventures....

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Emeril's Turkey Meatloaf


I am feeling a bit awkward writing this post right now. It has been a long long gap of three and a half months (OMG!!) since I last posted anything on my blog. 
I really believe the  American life has got the better of me!! I can tell you life has been pretty hectic and inspite of my promise to myself to regularly update my blog I have failed miserably. A lot has happened since our move here to Houston 8 months back - I managed to procure my driving license after passing a really tough written test (I don't think I must have studied this hard since my school days), somewhat got over my fear of driving on the freeway, familiarized myself with the 'mind-bogglingly' confusing routes around the city, got my work visa, then managed to get a job at a preschool (was that me a few years back who had promised myself that I would  never to go back to teaching again but here I am!!) which I totally enjoy doing. The 3-4 year olds are absolutely adorable and sure can teach us a few lessons on life. And then of course the mundane daily chores of cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, driving kids around kind of routine just got the better of me and Alas!! the pleasures of chronicling my food adventures had to take a backseat. 
Hey!! Its not as bad as it sounds - I have actually been having a good time!! Apart from experimenting and cooking new recipes (hopefully they will see the light of day soon on this blog) I have a new passion - that of cycling and exploring the beautiful bike trails around our area. We have over 111 bike trails in Woodlands and believe me each more picturesque than the other. After the dusty overcrowded roads of Gurgaon this place is a haven for people like me who love to be close to nature, Biking through these trails, feeling the rush of the wind against your face, zigzagging through forests, lush green Golf courses and riding by lakes, watching the ducks and turtles swimming in them just makes your heart soar. 
So after fitting in all these activities in my daily routine can I blamed if I don't have enough time for doing anything else? Now lets get back to the real business for which I am here - the business of food! 
For you I have a wonderful recipe of Turkey Meatloaf which I tried sometime back. I have adapted this recipe from Emeril's Meatloaf and made an addition of adding hard boiled eggs which I think not only added to the presentation but really upped the taste. (Also because I love boiled eggs). I loved Emeril's healthy twist on the traditional beef version of this classic favorite. Though I doubt but incase you have any left overs it makes great sandwiches too.
Incase you are wondering about these pics, they are from our recent trip to the Universal Studios at Orlando, Florida where Emeril Lagasse has a restaurant called 'Emeril's Orlando'. I had read somewhere that sometimes Emeril made an appearance in his restaurant and being a crazy fan of his that I am, for the three days we were there, every night I used to go up and look in to see hoping that I would get lucky and get to meet him!! Hopefully some day.......

Ingredients
4 slices turkey bacon, chopped
½ yellow onion chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 eggs
11/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
3 to 4 tbsp milk
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
11/2 pounds ground turkey(preferably 85%lean)
1 cup sweet chili sauce or ketchup
1 tsp dried Rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
5-6 hard boiled eggs
 
Method
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large skillet, cook bacon on medium heat stirring till almost crisp.
Leaving one tsp oil in the pan, spoon out the extra bacon fat.
Add onion, garlic and bell pepper and cook for about 2-3 minutes until vegetables are soft.
Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
Combine the bread crumbs and milk and let sit 5 minutes
Peel the hard boiled eggs. Keep aside.
In a large bowl  add in the minced turkey, 2 eggs(not the boiled ones), dried rosemary, Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoon chili sauce, salt and pepper,
Stir well to combine.
Divide the mixture into 2 parts.
Take a 5-by-9 inch loaf pan and cover the bottom of the pan with one half of the meat.
Place the hard boiled eggs in a row down the middle of the meatloaf.
Shape the remaining meat mixture over the top of the eggs until they are fully covered.
Pat and smoothen the top with the back of a spoon.
Spread remaining sweet chilli sauce over it.
Bake for about 1 hour until meatloaf is cooked through (an instant read thermometer inserted in the center reads 165 degrees) and the juices run clear. Let it cool in the pan before slicing.
Serve with a sides of mashed potatoes or sweet peas.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”― Henry David ThoreauWalden

Cooking with fresh berries is so much fun!! I am having a whale of a time here discovering new flavors and experimenting with new ingredients, some of which were quite difficult to access back home in India.
 Nowadays its a visual treat for me to go to the supermarket. Inside the store, what lures me is the attractive display of neatly stacked boxes of fresh Raspberries, Strawberries, Blueberries and Blackberries in the fresh produce section, just dying to be picked up. Except for the strawberries, which now are easily available in India, the rest of the berries are quite commonly uncommon. Seriously, the only place you are likely to find them are in Gourmet supermarkets stacking imported food products and even then they cost a bomb. So even if you did feel like cooking with them, your heart always skipped a beat looking at the astronomical price.
By now, I think you would have guessed that my current passion is cooking with fresh berries - and eating them too :). I just cannot have enough of them. I love adding them to anything and everything or even just enjoying them as it is. Recently for Valentine's day I made a Red velvet cake with strawberries and this time I thought of trying my way with fresh blueberries as I had never tasted them before.
Fresh and plump, I love the way the fresh blueberries add a bit of drama to my muffins, sensually oozing out their sweet blue nectar, leaving vivid indigo blue streaks all over the muffins. They look so delectable that it just makes you want to grab one and stuff one in your mouth. Rich and buttery with a moist tender center bursting with blueberries, not only are they delicious but are simple and quick to make.
Don't believe me? Try out for yourselves and then let me know how much you loved them!!
Ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks),  softened to room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
23/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups fresh blueberries
                           
Method
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Grease a muffin tin or line the cups with paper liners.
In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
Add the eggs in one by one and beat thoroughly till fully incorporated.
Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon juice.
Sieve the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Alternately add in the sieved flour and buttermilk, till all is used up.
Gently stir in half the blueberries.
Use an ice cream scoop or spoon to fill muffin cups 3/4 full.
the batter into a greased muffin pan.
Then sprinkle rest o the blueberries on top.
Bake for 25-30 minutes till the top has a beautiful golden brown crust and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.