Thursday, May 31, 2007

I'm Back With A Virtual Haircut For You !!

Was the title tricky enough to bring you here ?? :) Well, you will not be disappointed, trust me! I was winding up the kitchen this evening after our dinner and I heard CJJ laughing out loud, sitting in front of the computer, with his headphones on, which is a very rare sight and after almost 2-3 minutes, I found myself giggling too!!! If you are curious and wondering what made us laugh and made me post this, go ahead and grab your headphone and listen to this cool and awesome digital surround sound clipping. DO NOT USE SPEAKERS and spoil the fun. For a second, think you are sitting on your barbershop chair and close your eyes and get ready for this Virtual Barbershop! It's surreal....Let me know what you think :)

Well, I am also sharing my all time favorite picture from our photo album. Whenever I look at this picture, it brings smiles on my face. Could anyone suggest a funny caption for this please ? :)

On another note, I did miss you all in the past few days......that virtual friendship....those funny comments we exchange......and ofcourse those great recipes and tantalizing pictures. Thank you all for checking on me. I am back and recipes, accompanied by stories and pictures, will follow as usual :)

Have a great weekend ahead!

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.

Monday, May 28, 2007

My system on a Go-Slow strike !!

Hi All,

Due to maximum resource utilization and low maintenance and low wages approach, our system is on a Go-Slow strike and we're trying to rectify the problem. Till then I will not be frequenting the blog-world much and I will be missing you all. Will be back in a couple of days !

Take care and Have fun !
No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Blueberry Tea Bread

A social gathering….. everyone is in a festive mood…….music flowing in the background…..ladies chit-chatting in one corner and guys having their fun …….. a bunch of kids running around and some crying at the top of their voice ……party is in full-swing………at some point I go to the staging area to fill my drink, crossing a group of guys, mainly a married men group, and suddenly I overhear one asking, “hey dude, has your cholesterol count come down……..what’s your triglycerides and LDL count now…Did you check your BMI category?? “ For a moment, I am like, “ Did I come to the wrong party?” The same guys who used to eloquent about the fluctuation in share values, hybrid cars, sports suddenly seem to be interested in discussing some serious health issues!! Yes, whether it’s a new fad or not, talking about “eating healthy”, “regular exercise”, ”low carb-less fat-No trans fat “ seems to be catching on a lot these days, atleast amongst our friend circles and it all boils down to one reason, the annual physical check-up as part of the insurance scheme provided by the employer!.

And my most embarrassing moment was when we went for Lipid Profile test and had to fill out the family health history; to my embarrassment, there was not a single column where I did not say ‘NO’ to all those questions to check out my family history on Diabetes, Breast cancer, ovary cancer, High blood pressure, TB and what not! For a second, I wondered, ”Does this mean I am susceptible to all these diseases …Am I a mobile disease bomb???” also wondered why they did not have a column for ‘Mental Illness”, atleast in that section I could have ticked ‘No’ !!! It was not fun any more when someone from my doctor’s office called up to say, “Sweetie….everything is normal except for your LDL which is a bad cholesterol and have crossed the border line a bit….you need to be a bit careful on your fat intake and also exercise regularly”. Hmmm…..does it mean that I should think twice about adding more alfredo sauce to my pasta or avoid taking my favourite beef fry or mutton curry ? I guess the answer is an ‘YES’ as long as I don’t want to end up at the age of 40, eating 1/2 cup of rice with a large bowl of green salad, 2 glasses of bitter guard juice and ½ cup of multi-colored tablets and at the same time resist my cravings for a slice of heavily loaded cheese, beef and pepperoni pizza when that tempting advertisement comes in between a television program !! Instead, I don’t mind moving to low fat milk or skim milk, so I can enjoy my favourite dessert once in a while….or considerably reduce the intake of red meat, so I can relish a rich chicken biriyani once in a month……or I can stop eating those hard-to resist Pazhampori (banana fritters) or any deep fried snacks regularly, so I need not sit with a long face when we go to our favourite restaurant.

These days more and more youngsters are diagnosed with high blood pressure before they reach 25 and cholesterol and diabetes, before they reach the golden 30’s. Our parents would like to blame it on our life style and food habits and work pressures. It’s true to an extent but it makes me wonder why our parents were not having all these diseases when they were our age! I feel it’s mainly because nobody used to go for a Lipid Test 25-35 years ago….my father seemed to be enjoying perfect health until he collapsed one day due to high blood pressure leading to a cerebral hemorrhage, at the age of 52; thats the day we realized that he was having high blood pressure. Times when we blame ourselves for not doing a regular check up !! Now most of our peers are having the same problem but this is our prime time in life and how can we say no to all those food cravings?? Answer is practice moderation and stay away from all that artery-clogging food. Now nobody knows where the moderation begins or ends !! But having an idea as to what goes inside is really good, unless and until one does not want to end up at the age of 40, eating 1/2 cup rice and ½ cup multi-colored tablets and still resist the cravings for a slice of heavily loaded cheese, beef and pepperoni pizza :)

Wondering if blueberry bread can trigger so much of evocative thoughts? :) Not exactly, but this recipe is something we can eat without feeling much guilty. When you are in a mood to eat some baked goodies but can’t think of adding all that butter and chocolates, this simple blueberry tea bread comes for rescue. “Tea-Breads are sweet quick breads (breads made without yeast), that are traditionally enjoyed with your favorite coffee or tea. Don't let the word "bread" fool you however. Tea-Breads are really cakes --- similar to pound cakes but moister, richer and fuller and they come in a variety of delicious flavors. They are just right for breakfast, a light snack, or for dessert!” I got this recipe sometime back from my friend, TM who is an excellent host and a total foodie. I have tried this recipe 3 times with certain basic variations, and each time it has come quite well.

Ingredients: -
  • 2 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup fresh/frozen blueberries
  • 2tsp grated orange rinds
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • A pinch of powdered nutmeg (Optional)
Directions: -
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line the loaf pan with parchment/wax paper and grease with butter and dust with flour and keep it ready.
  2. In a pan, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and stir in the berries and orange rinds. In another large bowl, beat the eggs ,add milk and oil; Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the dry ingredients in small batches, making sure that berries are not crushed and at the same time the dry ingredients should be well combined. Stir very gently until it's all moistened and combined well, if not, flour will appear as small dots in the bread. Finally add a pinch of nutmeg and mix well.
  3. Pour on to the greased pan and as per the original recipe, a greased 9 * 5 * 3 loaf pan takes about 1 hour for baking and my 8½ * 4 ½ * 2 ½ takes about 2 hours for baking. The baking time differs depending on the pan size and the oven and hence, towards the end, if a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean without any crumbles, then that means the tea bread is ready.
  4. Cool in pan for 10 minutes; remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Once it is completely cool, cover with a plastic wrap and serve the next day as it allows all the flavours to set in and it tastes really good the next day :)
Variations I tried:
  1. Replaced skim milk for whole milk and added 2 tbsp heavy cream and still comes out tasty and I do not find any marginal difference.
  2. Tried mixing sugar with the wet ingredients, instead of stirring with the dry ingredient, still I do not find any noticeable difference.
  3. Original recipe calls for only 1 tsp orange rinds but since we like the smell and flavour of orange more, I add an extra tsp.
  4. Since we both like the aroma of nutmeg in baked goodies, I add a pinch of nutmeg too, which is again not there in the original recipe.
Note: As per the original recipe, the tea bread can be served immediately after it cools. But from my personal experience, I found that the bread really gains its flavour and smell the next day only. Also, while slicing the bread, use serrated knife or bread knife and after cutting 2-3 slices, run some hot water through the knife and pat dry immediately and then slice, to avoid crumbling from the sides and make the perfect slice.

A simple tea bread with tiny velvety fruit and infused with the refreshing smell of orange rinds...A perfect snack for any brunch or teatime parties….also a great gift for all your Cholesterol & High Diabetes factory owner friends :)

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Zucchini Stir-fry With A Kerala Touch – Zucchini Thoran

“Tring........…tring.... ", the phone rings around 11.00-11.30pm, when a middle aged couple has just hit the bed and try to get some sleep. As the phone continues to ring, some sort of tension builds up because of the untimely phone call, that too a long distance ring tone, and when they answer the phone, the person at the other end, with a very sheepish smile on her face asks,"Mummy….should I add ginger to this XX dish?" and mother who is now relieved that it’s not someone calling in to share some dreadful news, asks “Oh…dear…how many times have I told you this recipe ??” !!!! And when mother is just about wrap up the call, father in an impish tone reminds loudly from behind, “Tell her not to forget to add salt too !!" :D

Yes, it has happened umpteen times to my mother as her careless daughter does not have the habit of writing down the recipes as and when her mother shares it. It is not that I deliberately wanted to disturb them at those odd hours but I really did not have much options those days, when I was just beginning to learn cooking and had not much idea on the basic concoctions and tricks of the trade and still wanted to cook and serve the food as it was prepared back home at my place. This untimely calls used to happen until I got a feel of cooking and until my friend, RR who is an excellent cook in authentic Kerala cooking, came to US with her family and from then onwards, I pester my friend all with the basic silly doubts and hence, needless to say, my mother is able to get some incessant sleep these days :)

It was RR who suggested sometime back a recipe for Zucchini/Courgette to be prepared in Kerala style and I did like the idea of using a foreign vegetable in a traditional Kerala recipe and the taste was appealing to me as well. But as usual I did not note down the recipe and next time when I wanted to prepare that side dish, she was unavailable and that‘s when I started cooking Zucchini in the same way I prepare other vegetable thorans/Stir-frys. Now this is a regular in our house and CJJ’s one of the favourite side dishes to go with Fish curry. :)

Ingredients: -
  • 2 zucchinis
  • ¼ cup grated coconut
  • 1 small onion/shallots finely chopped
  • 1-2 small cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 4-5 green chilies finely chopped
  • A pinch of cumin seeds
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • ¼ tsp mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp urad Dal/black grams
  • 1-2 dry red chilies
  • Salt to taste
  • 2tsp oil
Directions: -
  1. Trim off the ends and halve the zucchini lengthwise and make 3-4 strips of each half and dice them into small pieces. No need to peel off the skins and remove the small seeds.
  2. Crush and blend the coconut well with finely chopped small onion, garlic, green chilies, cumin seeds, turmeric powder and salt using your hands OR put all the ingredients in a small food processor and pulse 1-2 times.
  3. Heat oil in a pan and when it is steaming hot, splutter mustard seeds, followed by urad dal and dry red chilies. Add the chopped zucchinis to the pan and cook them covered for 40-60 seconds in medium heat. Remove the lid, add the grated coconut mixture and cover it cooked for another 40-50 seconds in low flame. Again stir gingerly and do a ‘taste test’ here and add salt if required and when it reaches perfection, turn off the heat, serve with warm rice and fish curry :)
Tips: Zucchini, Cucumber and Melons are cousins and they are all popular for their tender flesh. Because of the tenderness, it’s better not to overcook the zucchini, to retain its delicate flavour and firmness as well as not to make it too soft and watery. And if you are like me who do not entertain the idea of your mustard seeds popping out of the pan and dancing all around, making the entire cooking area a mess, keep a lid on the pan immediately after you throw in the mustard seeds :)

Well, Sushma of Recipe Source thinks that its a "lovely tip" to be sent for her Monthly Cooking Tipology Event and how can I say NO to this sweet lady ? :)

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Mango Sorbet with Mango Sauce- For the love of Mango!

Somewhere I read that mangoes are the “food of Gods”. Wonder how lucky Gods are!! They can have this luscious and succulent fruit every day!!! And from my experience, this is the only fruit that can bring some sort of silent competition on the dining table, in our family. I have noticed this silent phenomenon with my parents, my brother and CJJ…. whenever a plate of ripe mangoes are diced and served, suddenly everyone on the table gets into a competitive mode and tries to fork the maximum number of pieces…. at that time it’s like a 100 meter sprint :) If I dust my memory board, there are lots of mango memories but the one floating on top is that of a mango tree that used to be center of attention in our front yard. The tree used to yield hundreds of unbelievably big mangoes, as big as a pineapple (yeah..I’m exaggerating a bit there ;) but we never got to eat atleast one as by the time it is ripe, and even before we could lay our hands on ‘em, all the worms and bees would have tasted it !! My parents tried using all sorts of pesticides but it was as though someone had cast an evil spell on it ! My mother even succumbed to all those superstitious belief that if one gets up early in the morning and shouts at the tree and beats the tree with a broomstick, then it will yield good mangoes next year! Hilarious, isn’t it ?? But yes, my poor mother did that and I don’t know whether the tree got scared of all the beating or we got lucky, we started getting atleast 4-5 edible mangoes every year, untouched by the worms and bees and they used to taste divine !! But two years back the inevitable happened, it was axed down.

This recipe is one of my favorite desserts as the basic ingredient is the sweet and yummy mango puree. I got this recipe from a true friend of mine, SM, who is an excellent cook and she never fails to impress me with her crowd-pleasing appetizers and desserts. And whenever I have served this dessert, I have been asked to share the recipe too. So thought I will share it with you all :)

Ingredients for Mango Sorbet:
  • 1 cup canned Mango Puree/Pulp
  • 2-4 tbsp powdered sugar OR to taste
  • 1 egg white
Ingredients for Mango Sauce:
  • ½ cup canned Mango Puree/Pulp
  • 3tbsp heavy cream
  • 2-3 tbsp powdered sugar
To make Mango Sorbet: Using the double boiler method, cook egg whites for 2 minutes, continuously whipping them. Mix this with mango puree/pulp and sugar, using a hand mixer, for 1-2 minutes and freeze it for 1 hour and again take it out and blend well with a hand mixer and keep it back in the freezer atleast for 4-6 hours or until it is frozen.

To Make Mango Sauce: Using a hand mixer, blend the mango puree/pulp, sugar and cream for 1-2 minutes and refrigerate for 12-24 hours before serving.

Serving Tips: Mango sorbet can be frozen in ice cube trays or any individual moulds. It can also be frozen in a small flat pan and use cookie cutters to make the shapes you want. While using cookie cutters, coat its sides with some butter or shortening so it’s easier to pull off the sorbet. Mango sauce can be either poured on top or to make it look a bit appealing to your guests, it may be drizzled or piped on the dessert plate by using a pastry bag; an alternative to pastry bag is using plastic bags, filled with mango sauce and push them to one corner and snip off a bit from that corner, to make a small hole and then squeeze the sauce and make any design of your choice.

Variations: The same mango sauce cane be used on a dollop of ice cream and it does give that extra ‘kick’ to your ice cream :)

A word of caution: Half cooked or uncooked egg is not recommended in general and for pregnant women in particular. Hence I personally do not suggest serving this to pregnant women, since the recipe calls for only double boiling the egg whites. Though uncooked egg whites are often used in mousse and meringues, the US Food & Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise against eating any raw egg in any form. Read more here.

This is my entry for the blog event AFAM, guest hosted by Deepa and Meeta’s Monthly Mingle –Spring is in the Air.

Barbara of WinosAndFoodies is hosting a blog event, A TASTE OF YELLOW, to raise awareness of cancer in connection with the LIVESTRONG DAY and this is my entry towards a good cause. Read more about the event here.

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.