Chocolate Brownie with a Hint of cinnamon and cayenne

There is only one thing the whole world is talking about and that is the Pandemic. It is a scary, crazy time of our lives; the fear of the unknown. The stores have been depleted of hand sanitizers and toilet paper. Interestingly, the baking aisle is also empty; no flour, sugar, yeast or baking powder. Luckily, I had a big bag of flour and atta (whole wheat flour which is used for chapatti/ rotis). Seems like everyone plans to bake when they are ‘social distancing’.

I am now working from home and it saves me the travel time. So more time to cook and bake. For me baking is calming; maybe the same for others; and at this time when we are all cooped up in our houses, we need to do something which calms us down and takes us to our happy place.

Be Calm and Bake On!

Brownies, who does not love brownies. Here is another recipe. This has been adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018653-brownies?action=click&module=Global%20Search%20Recipe%20Card&pgType=search&rank=1

Earlier in the week, I was watching food network and a lady was making mexican chocolate cake. She added some cinnamon and cayenne powder so I thought I would add some to the brownies. They were good; just a hint of spice. It is an unexpected spice at the end when it is least expected.

My boys are back home and the brownies (doubled the recipe) were gone in no time!

Ingredients

  • 8 tbsp butter (1/2 cup)
  • 3 oz unsweetened chocolate (85 gms)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour (I used atta)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (chilli) powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions

  • Heat oven to 350º F ( 176º C)
  • Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan on low heat. Keep mixing. When chocolate starts to melt, take it off heat. Stir until mixture is smooth
  • Grease an 8 inch square baking pan. Line it with parchment paper and grease
  • Pour chocolate butter mixture into a mixing bowl. Beat in eggs and vanilla
  • Add flour and salt and mix. Stop stirring when no traces of flour remain. Do not overmix
  • Pour into prepared pan. I added some walnuts to half the pan. This is optional
  • Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until set and barely firm in the middle.
  • Eat as is or serve with ice cream.
  • Enjoy!

Pumpkin Espresso Cake

I had made this cake in the new year. Lots has happened in this year, especially in the last few weeks with the pandemic, the fear among people and the unknown. The one thing that keeps a lot of us sane is comfort food, cooking and baking. I went shopping and all flours were out. I had white flour and atta flour, used half and half and it was good. I made this recipe again and it hit the right spot. This time I used a bundt pan. It looks fancy and it is truly scrumptious. do try!

Reposting the recipe with some new pictures. If you cannot get canned pumpkin; cook pumpkin in a little water and blend in a blender/mixie.

It is that time of the year – shorter days, colder days. It is time when you you want to wrap a blanket and sit on your couch. It is the time when you want to eat bhajis and pakodas. It is the time when you want to bake. Actually, I like to bake anytime of the year. It is the time for pumpkins and I found this recipe from https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/pumpkin-espresso-bundt-cake-recipe

The recipe used a bundt cake pan. I did not have one so made it in a regular pan. I ate a couple of pieces without the glaze. I was not going to make the glaze. It was good without the glaze. I finally decided to make it and then added the glaze. It elevated the cake to another level. This cake is a keeper.

It freezes well. Everytime I eat a piece, I forget how good it is. The pictures does not do justice. You should try it.

I have copied the recipe from the king arthur website. The link is given above.

Ingredients

Cake

Filling

Glaze

  • 1/3 cup (74g) strong brewed coffee
  • 1/3 cup (67g) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (21g) rum, optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. To make the cake: Beat together the pumpkin, eggs, oil, sugars, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until well blended.
  3. Stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt until smooth and uniform in appearance. Set aside.
  4. To make the filling: Whisk together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and espresso powder in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.

Diet, You Say!

I miss my friends and the exercise routine. We worked really hard but we had a lot of fun. Reposting this post in honour of my friends.

Our Zumba instructor, Bhavana, has been asking us to go on the GM diet for a few months. We always had excuses – dinner party, special lunches or travelling to places with amazing seafood. Even though I told her I eat in moderation, she thought it would be good to cleanse the system. It was three of us who decided to go on the diet and we decided to diet for 3 days, maybe 4, because we had a lunch on the 5th day and did not want to miss that. So you can see that we all love food! We had fun dieting (again not a word you think of when you think of the D word). Fun, because we dieted together, sharing food and sharing lots of laughs at our misery! So this recipe is dedicated to Bhavana, Uma and Ram. Thank you Bhavana for putting up with us and our moves. We are like Lucy in this video ‘I love Lucy’. https://youtu.be/XYvr6U5xv9w . We really feel for you but are so thankful to you for pushing us to exercise and eat healthy. I cannot believe I ate fruits while everyone else was eating pooris!

Diet conjures images of insipid food, boiled, tasteless, boring. But for me it was a challenge. How do I make food interesting, tasty, scrumptious even. The path to good food is flavour. I hardly used oil in this but packed it with flavour!

The first day was just fruits, except for bananas. My friend and I brought our cut fruits and ate it for snack and lunch. I made some fresh watermelon juice for the evening. Btw, if you prepare to eat fruits the whole day, be prepared to visit the restroom many times.

Day 2, was only vegetables, no potatoes except for breakfast. Food can never be boring for me. I went to the vegetable market and picked up different vegetables. Stir fry, it was. Cauliflower rice seems to be the craze in the USA, so I decided to try it out. Day 3, fruits and vegetables, no bananas and potatoes, so soup it was. The truth is I feel good. My stomach has gone down a bit, the weighing scale is being good to me. But of course I will start eating carbs and sweets again, but surely will add more fruit in my diet. Eat anything you want but in moderation is my motto!

Cauliflower Rice

  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into flowerlets, washed and drainer
  • 2 tbsp onion, chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

Directions

  • Pulse cauliflower in a food processor. It should be powdery, not a paste
  • In a pan, heat oil. Add onions and cauliflower and saute for a few minutes. Sprinkle some water, add salt and fry till cooked. It should not be overcooked.
  • Serve instead of rice

Stir Fried Veggies

Pack it with flavours and you will not miss the oil, the soy sauce and the chilli sauce you might add otherwise. There is added sugar in almost everything processed, so read the labels.

  • 2 cups of 3-6 veggies of your choice (carrot, beans, mushroom, capsicum, broccoli, baby corn), cleaned and cup into pieces
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp oil (when on a diet; otherwise increase it if you want)
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander, 2 tbsp fresh chopped basil ( I had both, so added both. you can add just one)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

  • Heat oil in a wok.
  • Add onions and fry for a minute. Add chillies, garlic and ginger. Add vegetables according to their cooking time. Add the broccoli and capsicum last as you do not want them to overcook and get mushy. Add salt
  • Fry till vegetables are cooked, not overcooked.
  • Sprinkle and mix the herbs.
  • Add lemon juice and mix. Taste for seasoning.
  • Serve with cauliflower rice

Throw It Together Vegetable Soup

How do I make soup with no readymade stock, my friend asked! Pack it with flavour, you do not need Maggi. Throw in vegetables you have, maybe some leftovers (you get my drift) and make a hearty soup. I always make a batch for atleast two meals. Since it had no stock, I made a paste of grilled tomatoes and eggplants to give it heartiness and depth. Grilling tomatoes brings out a sweetness

  • 1 eggplant, grilled on stove and skin removed
  • 3-4 tomatoes
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 green chillies
  • veggies of your choice (I used the same as above).
  • Also had some grilled pumpkin which i threw in (optional)
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp leftover cauliflower rice (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • 4-5 cups water
  • 3-4 tbsp chopped coriander
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

Directions

  • Grill tomatoes and 3-4 cloves of garlic in the oven. Remove skin of tomatoes (Heat oven to 200ºC/400ºF, grill for 25-30 minutes)
  • Grill eggplant, remove skin.
  • Grind together grilled tomato, garlic and eggplant to a paste.
  • Keep aside. (Add some olive oil, sumac or chilli poser and a dash of lemon juice and you can serve it as a dip)
  • In a pot add onions, rest of the garlic, chillies and vegetables that take longer to cook. Save broccoli, capsicum for the last.
  • Add 3-4 tbsp of the tomato – eggplant paste
  • Add water and salt and let it cook on a low flame for 30 minutes
  • Add rest of vegetables and cook for a few minutes
  • Add chopped coriander and lemon juice
  • Serve hot

Masala Vadai/ Paruppu Vadai-Deep Fried Lentil Patties

Today is a cold snowy day. Coming back from work driving in the snow makes me want to sit near the fireplace eating some vadas or pakodas. Here is a recipe for masala vada. They hit all the right spots – hot, deep fried, spicy and crispy! Have it with a cup of tea or coffee or any drink of your choice.

Masala vadai/Vada is a popular (and one of my favourite) snack from South India. It is another easy to make snack is a great potluck food or an appetizer. You could serve this with coconut chutney or coriander chutney or eat it by itself.

Masala vadai brings back memories of traveling in a train anywhere in the South, where hawkers come selling hot vadais at every station. The smell of the vadai reaches you even before you can see the hawker, serving you the vadas on newspaper. These made long train journeys fun, eating different hot deep fried snacks depending on the region and station, every station famous for certain snacks. When I moved to Sweden, we would eat falafels which were the closest we could get to masala vadais.

Try it and let me know what you think. This recipe makes around 15 vadais.

Ingredients:

1 cup channa dal

1 red chilli

1-2 green chilli

1-inch ginger

2 onions, chopped finely

8 – 10 curry leaves

2 tbsp chopped cilantro/ coriander leaves

salt to taste

oil for frying

Directions:

Wash and rinse channa dal

Soak in water for 2 hours (to hasten the process soak in hot water for an hour)

Drain and set aside 2 tbsp channa dal

Grind the rest of the dal coarsely, with chillies, ginger and curry leaves.

Transfer to a bowl, add the rest of the channa dal, onions, cilantro and salt and mix well.

Heat oil.

Flatten a ball of the mixture, and slide it into the hot oil. Fry them for a few minutes till it is golden brown, then turn around and fry.

Once golden and crisp, remove with slotted spoon and remove excess oil on a paper towel.

Serve with chutney or by itself.

Cinnamon Coffee Crumb Coffee Cake

I have my usual quick dessert recipes which I make often. But at times, I get bored of making the same. This is a new recipe which had some raving reviews from my friends. This recipe has been adapted from Trisha Yearwood’s recipe on Food Network. Though there is quite a large amount of coffee added, the distinct taste is of cinnamon with an after taste of coffee. You could reduce the cinnamon by half if you do not like the taste of cinnamon. This cake was really soft almost like a sponge cake. I made a yogurt honey sauce to go with it, but it was good without the sauce too.

This is a repost. I made this again yesterday and it was delicious.

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1/3 cup sour cream or yogurt
  • 225 grams (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sugar

Coffee Crumb Topping

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (maida)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 4 tbsp melted unsalted butter
  • a pinch of salt

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC)
  • Prepare a 9 by 9-inch baking pan. Line it with parchment paper and butter it.
  • For the cake: Beat sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat till well mixed.
  • Sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, baking soda, and baking powder.
  • In a small bowl whisk sour cream (or yogurt) and coffee until smooth.
  • Add sour cream mixture and dry ingredients to the sugar-butter mixture and mix well.
  • Pour the batter into the pan.
  • For the crumb: Mix all ingredients except butter. Add melted butter. Mix.
  • Top the cake batter evenly with the crumb topping
  • Bake for 45 minutes till a skewer comes out clean
  • Cool for 30 minutes before serving
  • Enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee

Yogurt Honey Sauce

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • Mix ingredients till smooth and serve with cake.

Vendakkai Pachadi – Okra in a Spicy Tangy Coconut Gravy Why is Okra Slimy and What can you do?- Science in the Kitchen

Reposting this from October 2018.

After a long time, I decided to make Pachadi as a side dish for rice and Molagootal. I looked up a few of my recipe books including Samaythu Par and could not find the recipe. I then looked online and could find variations but not what I wanted. So I called my parents to get the recipe. This I assume is the Palakkad version of the dish.

Okra is also called Lady’s finger in some parts.

You could prepare the same dish with eggplant or white pumpkin too.

Why is okra slimy? Here is some science behind it!

I came across an article on NPR that talked about okra and then visited the blog, botanist in the kitchen. Here is the explanation as to why okras are slimy. Okra is slimy because of a water-soluble mucilage. It is an adaptation to retain moisture and store water in hot ares where they grow. Though there is no information as to why exactly it is slimy, there is enough information as to how to remove the slime while cooking.

In India, our mothers and grandmothers have been using acid to remove the slime. Tamarind is used in the south, but sometimes yogurt or lemon juice is added, depending on the recipe. The viscosity (the measure of a fluid’s resistance to flow, in this case, the thick, sticky, semifluid consistency) reduces at high heat around 90ºC. Then even when it is cooled, the mucilage does not return. Another popular way in India and Africa is to add an acid. Viscosity is at its peak at a neutral or alkaline pH, by adding an acid the mucilage becomes acidic and the viscosity reduces.

Ingredients:

300 grams okra/ ladies finger

1/2 cup white pumpkin or madras cucumber (optional)

tamarind paste 1 1/2 tsp (or fresh tamarind 1 inch diameter piece soaked in warm water and pulp removed)

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

salt to taste

1/4 tsp jaggery/ brown sugar (optional)

To grind to a paste:

1 tsp mustard seeds

1-2 green chillies

1/2 cup coconut

To temper

1 tsp oil

1/2 tsp mustard

1/2 tsp urad dal

a pinch of asafoetida

a couple of curry leaves

Directions:

Wash and pat dry the okra. Cut into small pieces.

In a pan, add the vegetables, tamarind paste, a cup of water, salt and turmeric powder. Let the vegetables cook.

Grind the coconut, chilli, and mustard to a paste.

When the vegetables are cooked, add the paste and let it cook for 10 minutes on a slow flame. Add brown sugar if you feel it is too sour. It has to have the right balance of sourness from the tamarind and the spiciness from the chilli

Heat oil to temper. Add urad dal, mustard, asafoetida, and curry leaves. When mustard splutters, add it to the gravy and mix.

Serve as a side dish with rice and molagootal (or any gravy without tamarind).

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