Poha Chiwda


With a vacation gone by, now that I am back in India, kind of jostled into a routine, placed our daughter in school and have resumed work full time, you would probably expect this to be sort of a travelogue post walking you though dozens of photographs from places far known and unknown, painting a picturesque comprehension for each. Let me put all guesses to rest. I may have been back here, but my mind is still in the roving. It wanders back and forth to the good time we spent with D. I would love to do a short walk through of the places we visited, which was in plenty. We spent good moments doing things together in threesome, but I feel simply unwilling to dig into those photographs and bring those moments into words here. Some things are best left that way. Imprinted in memories. When mere words cannot do justice.

Poha Chiwda


So as it goes, this is no travelogue kind-a post, but a recipe for an Indian savory snack I made in huge batches during our time in the US. We savored it by bowls on several evenings sitting by the wooden porch that overlooked the thick woods in our backyard. The moments slipped away without notice as we sipped into hot chocolate and tea, scooping spoonfuls of chivda into our palms, slowly savoring its crunch, while we tended to the young tomato plants that bloomed tender yellow buds in our garden.

On weekdays when D was away at work, the chivda became my sole savior as I flipped through light reads under the wraps of summer and streaks of golden sunlight. As the afternoons tranced into early evenings, there were days when our little girl kept herself busy dressing up her dolls, setting up the table and putting up a pretend birthday party for them. I would briefly give her company in the initial part of the play, pretending to be her helper, then, slowly whisk away to make time for myself, to play with real pots and pans in my kitchen that belonged to me.

Then, there were other days when she would get busy soaking up her fingers and clothes in spectrum of colors as Elsa and Sofia got painted in colorful attire in a way only she would fantasize. Their frills and veils were painted in reds, greens, blues, browns and whatnot, smudged in uneven tones and stressed outside the lines meant to define these beautiful damsels. That's the time I borrowed for myself in the kitchen, to dish out some delectable savory snacks that made us through those evenings till we waited for D to return from work.

Poha Chiwda


This Poha Chivda may remind you of your childhood spent visiting your relatives or friends, or of festivals like Diwali and Navrathri, when aunts brought in bowls of savory snacks served along with piping hot tea. Poha Chivda was and probably is still a common tea time savory dish in many Indian homes, served mid-noon along with tea or coffee, often store-bought and rampantly available in transparent polythene packets in every bakery and grocery store possible. Almost every house probably has had some version of it. At home, we call them all just 'chivda', which simply means an assortment of fried and seasoned ingredients usually with a base of flattened rice or cornflakes. Chivdas come in varieties, but there is no hard and fast rule on how you wish to make and what you wish to season them with. The store-bought ones are usually heavily seasoned and spicy, but I like to break rules and keep it simple, light and flavorsome.

My version here is quick with minimal ingredients. Its quite common to use fried cashews, raisins and sesame seeds for a more assorted rich taste. It takes about 15-20 minutes to put all of this together from start to finish. You could use fried whole red chillies instead of red chilli powder to reduce heat further. If you wish to try a low fat version and bake the poha, let me know how it works for you. For once, when I tried a baking attempt at this, it failed miserably. Try this and let me know how you like it.

Poha Chiwda


Poha Chivda | Namkeen Chivda | Avalakki Chiwda (Seasoned Flattened Rice)

INGREDIENTS

3 cups poha / flattened rice (use thick variety)
1/2 cup peanuts
1/2 cup roasted gram bengal dal / channa dal / huri kadale
2 sprig curry leaves
1 tsp. oil for tempering
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp red chili powder
1 tbsp. sugar or as required
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying

DIRECTIONS

Heat enough oil for deep frying in a wide mouth pan or kadai or wok. Using a wide mouth strainer or a slotted spoon, deep fry the poha in hot oil. Do this in batches so that you fry them evenly till they swell up and become crisp. Remove and drain over a plate lined with kitchen paper. Fry all of the poha and set aside. Into the same oil, fry the roasted bengal gram dal till its golden brown. Remove and drain again on a kitchen paper. Next, fry the peanuts in this oil till reddish brown in color and drain on a kitchen paper. Fry the curry leaves till they crisp up. Drain and set aside.

Heat a teaspoon of oil in a separate pan. Fry mustard seeds till they pop. Add the red chili powder and mix in all the fried ingredients. Sprinkle sugar and salt to taste. Roast this for 2-3 minutes on a low flame to ensure all the spice, salt and sugar is well combined into the poha mixture. Adjust the spice according to your taste by adding more red chili powder if required.

Allow the chivda mixture cool completely. You can store this in an air-tight container at room temperature for couple of weeks.

Poha Chiwda

Oakleaf Greens Salad


“Dusk is just an illusion because the sun is either above the horizon or below it. And that means that day and night are linked in a way that few things are. There cannot be one without the other yet they cannot exist at the same time. How would it feel I remember wondering to be always together yet far apart?” ― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

Nearly a week ago we drove 100 miles away from home and made our way mid-morning through the sultry heat and thick NYC traffic. We reached airport just in time, trying to save every bit of it for the last minute togetherness. We hugged D for one last time, in much of an emotional goodbye this time over the last year. Our little girl is now big enough to understand what separation in true sense means and what it is like being away from her dad for couple of several months, much of which she hadn't known all this while.

We left our soul back at home that served us for these 3 worthy months of time off and family time with D. Filled with beautiful memories of home and travel, spurred with endearing moments of togetherness, we left for our home back in India with a heavy heart. Across we flew passing by oceans, green pastures of Europe, desserts of Middle East, traversing continents and surging ahead of the horizon, witnessing the dawn and dusk twice in 24 hours. As much my eyes were filled with marvel at the world below, my mind was filled with anxiety of the long parting we have far borne as a family for so long. All of this comes with some hope that we will soon be together for good. A hope that is positive and stronger than any other besiege.

Oakleaf Greens with Strawberry Balsamic Dressing


We are living through jet lag and zonal differences at the moment. It may take a while, though not too long as we set back into a wonted rhythm. As the sun shines high up in D's land and brings glory of summer and sunshine, so comes this recipe from me to you for greens that were not so familiar to me, atleast not until D introduced me to a land where salad greens make a prominent presence on their aisle in almost every supermarket. I had little known Oakleaf greens, till D randomly picked a pack of salad greens on our regular grocery shopping one day and I instantly fell in love with them there on. They are wonderfully tasty and versatile with cheese and salad dressing of your choice, if paired. The Strawberry Balsamic Dressing gives a kick of tang against the sweet fruity jam, spiced up with liberal doses of fresh cracked pepper. I suggest you taste the sauce for yourself and adjust the ratio of sweet and tang to your liking. It flaunts well dribbled on crisp lettuce leaves, (either Oakleaf or Romaine would do) and saltiness from fresh feta, adorned with some berries and walnuts. Additionally, I love to serve this salad with cheese sandwiched artisan bread; which obviously does not make it gluten-free, if you abide by it. Choice is really yours.

Oakleaf Lettuce with Strawberry Balsamic Dressing

INGREDIENTS

5 cups Oakleaf Lettuce, red and green
2 tablespoons Feta cheese
2 tablespoons mix of berries like Cranberries and Goji berries
8-20 Walnuts

For the Strawberry Balsamic Salad Dressing

1 tablespoon strawberry jam, preferable homemade or low sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat and simmer till the vinegar reduces to half and becomes thick. Turn off the heat and whisk in the strawberry jam and the extra-virgin olive oil. Season it liberally with salt and pepper.

Place the Oakleaf greens along with mix of berries and walnuts in a wide salad bowl. Drizzle the salad dressing and toss it well to coat evenly in dressing. Serve.

Oakleaf Greens Salad-1

Peach_Puff_Pastry_Tart_1


July has been a wonderful month bringing bounty produce and tons of inspiration to my kitchen. Its a month when all things living bud and bloom to glory. Foliage brim to lush greenness, healthy and flourishing. Weeds crawl themselves on to every inch of wilderness. Flowers burst into frenetic bloom. Markets bustle with vegetable produce in vividness and abundance. Fruits and berries make their way into our lives beyond what we could ask for. There's burst of color and splash of summer everywhere. July pampers you. It makes you feel luxuriant.

Summers here have been all high and at times 94 deg F (34 deg C) feels like 105 F (40 deg C). Yet, I am so much a tropical girl that I make best friends with summer and its givings. There is no moment left to slip away in rambling about heat. Instead we go farm-foraging for fruits with bags and baskets. At nearly the end of berry season, peaches and melons are here to replace them on stands.

Peach_Puff_Pastry_Tart_2


In less than a week, the daughter and I are heading back home, to India. Over two weeks ago, our little girl stopped her school here to resume the one she goes back home. She gets a small break before she gets back to track on another routine in India. As we've just begun bag packing, I shudder to think how quickly these three months have flown by, insanely quick, like a flash of lightening. While I'm thankfully lucky to be on a break from work and make a trip here the second time, it feels so unreal that its time to leave D's nest and fly back to another nest far away in another continent. Again, we leave in hopes and prayers for sooner family union.

These three months of vacation time have been wonderful. We witnessed the onset of spring and the way they silently slipped into summers, bringing with them the best of everything we love - the sunshine, the beaches, the road trips, the camping, the late evening partying, the farm foraging, berry picking, the evening walks at parks, the book hunting at the library, the lazying by the porch, the summer cooking, and lots more we did together. Instead of rumbling how much we will miss D and the moments we spent here with him, I leave you with this simple peach puff pastry tart that speaks bounty of summer - golden summery ochre with velvety skin and a delicate sweet aroma. Its so easy that you would be ashamed as put them together and shove them to the oven. Ofcourse that doesn't account for making puff pasty at home. But if you have them handy, you get away with assembling this in under 10 mins and another 20 min to bake, which is the oven's job!

Peach_Puff_Pastry_Tart_3


Simple Peach Puff Pastry Tart

INGREDIENTS

1 sheet homemade / frozen puff pastry
2 medium peaches
1 tbsp. of brown sugar (adjust according to the sweetness of your peaches)
2-3 tbsp. milk, to brush
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Few pecans and mini chocolate chips to scatter

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 420 degrees F. Carefully roll / cut the puff pastry into strip of 4" x 8" inch. Cut the peaches in half and remove the pit. Slice peaches carefully into 1/4 inch. Arrange the peaches on the puff pastry overlapping each other. Sprinkle the peaches with brown sugar, pecans and mini chocolate chips. Brush the edges of the puff pastry with milk (alternative to egg) and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the edges are a deep golden brown. Serve warm, preferably with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream.

Peach_Puff_Pastry_Tart_4

Raspberry_Ice_cream7


At this very moment, our home is raining stone fruits and berries. Cherries precisely. Followed by peaches. Early last week when we went berry picking to a local farm, I went totally ravenous just at the sight of beautiful sapphires and rubies dangling off the bushes and trees. We went picking as many fruits as we could, quite greedily, like there would be no another day for them; from tree to tree, bushes to bushes, buckets after buckets till the scorching summer heat tired us out. With trunk full of cherries and peaches, came along blueberries and raspberries too.

I love how much my fridge is brimming with these fruits in every corner of the space it can accommodate. Every morning, before I reach out to the can of milk to make tea for my family, my hands are drawn to these fruits quite instinctively. Usually a long gaze and in reverence, I pop in a couple of them to start the day with. Some are then packed off into snack boxes for my husband for his mid day snacking. Our mid-mornings and afternoons are usually spent either snacking on them or pitting them to be frozen for a good part of the year when all these little gems will be gone. I wonder if I would let them stay there for so long.

Quite often when I am at farmer's market to pick up fruits, my head bubbles up several ideas of turning them into more delicious treats. My shopping cart is always loaded with more than what we need. Rationally greedy at the fear of season's fag end. But more often I find myself being reluctant to rive and macerate them into any other form. We are a family who adores fruits. Fruit, in its true form.

Vanilla_Bean_Ice_cream Raspberry_swirl
Raspberry_Ice_cream_2


When we came home with pints of ripe raspberries hand picked from the farm last week, I made this easy Warm Spiced Raspberry Jam leaving out the Strawberries. They went into almost everything - our bread, the daughter's milk, drizzled on yogurt, including accompanying as sides for parathas. I saved a few raspberries for this rippled ice cream that had been playing up on my mind for long. A rippled ice cream, where the layers of contrasting colors and flavors, each complementing other beautifully, create beautiful swirls when scooped to serve. And what can be better than having luscious baby pink ripples between speckled vanilla bean deliciousness.

This ice cream is very simple, quick and easy to put together as it does not require any ice cream maker. Two basic ingredients, heavy cream and condensed milk go into making the base for this ice cream. It takes less than 10 mins from counter to freezer and you have one of the most easiest, creamy and delicious ice cream ever.

IMG_3023


'No Churn' Raspberry Ripple Ice cream (Vanilla Bean Ice cream with Raspberry Swirl) - Without Ice Cream Maker

INGREDIENTS

For the Vanilla Bean Ice cream:

400 ml heavy cream, cold
200 grams condensed milk, preferably cold
1 tbsp. good vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 tbsp. vanilla essence

For the Raspberry Ripple:

1/2 pint Raspberries
2 tbsp. caster sugar

Place the raspberries along with sugar in a blender and blend them to fine puree. Pass this through a sieve to separate seeds. Cook this puree on medium heat for 10 mins or until slightly thickened. You don't need the consistency of a jam, however too thin puree may affect the texture of the ice cream.

To prepare the vanilla bean ice cream, whip the heavy cream till it holds soft peaks. Then add the condensed milk, vanilla extract and vanilla seeds from a pod of vanilla. Continue to whip until the mixture is smooth and fluffy and holds soft peaks. Transfer 1/3 of the ice cream mixture to a loaf tin or your ice cream container of your choice. Drizzle 1/3 of the raspberry syrup on top. Repeat another two times so you have three layers of each. Using a fork, gently swirl the ice cream mixture to create a rippled look. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and allow the ice cream to set in the freezer for at least 4-6 hours.

Raspberry_Ice_cream_4

Cheese Swirl Brown Bread


What is it like to experience an earthquake under your feet? Feeling of tremors, panic attacks, the aftermath, heart beat thumping harder than anything else you have heard, home crumbling down to rubble, a piece of land that breaches to shatters, where uncertainly prevails, and much more??? I went through nearly the same plight the night day before.

It happens quite often that I drift away from my system unlocked while I attend to other household demands. This night too, like usual, I was part way through my blog when the clock announced it was time for dinner and hence I headed over to the kitchen to prep the table. Little had I known that I would soon be called for a shock. My little girl saw this as an apt moment of play to wiggle around the mouse and hover over a couple of blogger tabs. It threw me in jolts when I realized that a couple of playful clicks had led my painstakingly customized blog interface revert to plain ol' default layout. It may have been a matter of plain fortuity, but it costed me huge heart aches and couple of sleepless nights in return to see my space, my web home collapse to wreck, much like an earthquake. Or a web-quake?

More than a year ago, I completely revamped the look of my blog and customized it to my preference. It was an interface I loved thoroughly - a simple, 2 columned no frill plain Jane look. I worked through days and nights of editing CSS coding to get its final look. When I wished to go back to the backup file, a lot had been added and modified from my original layout. Over time, social icons and new widgets were added manually, which I had now lost them all.

Anyway, all of this comes as a blessing in disguise. I assume, this space needed a new look to kill that long held monotony. After hours of research and relearning CSS coding, I finally have just the right design and I like it every bit. I am still working through those petty modifications, but I am almost there. I hallowed through the past 48 hours untiringly to reconstruct this new look. Let me know, how you like it? Are you facing any issues? Drop your comments. Constructive, critical, whatever; I welcome them all.

IMG_3465 IMG_3468IMG_3472IMG_3479 Cheese Swirl Brown Bread_2


Beyond relearning the bits and pieces of long forgotten CSS coding that has kept me busy these couple of days, our summers have been good for now. Weather is warm and sun shines high up on almost every single day. One of the my favorite pastime this summer has been to rent books from the nearby library and read them by the porch. Apart from the usual splurge of novels, I have dug myself into couple of good cookbooks that have been quite instrumental in my kitchen during this vacation. One such inspirational cookbook that has kept me quite on my toes has been 'The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion'. A book that I have come to adore so much. Of the several recipes that I tried, tested and succeeded, this Cheese Bread has been my current favorite. Ofcourse with some minor changes to the basic recipe, here's my version of the same - cheese swirled into basic bread recipe. They are wonderful as sandwiches or open faced toasts with avocados, cucumbers, onions and lettuce.

IMG_3553


Cheese Swirl Brown Bread

Inspired by 'The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion'

INGREDIENTS

2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 cup lukewarm milk
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. butter or vegetable oil
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp. Italian herbs
1 cup finely grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

Combine all the ingredients except cheese and knead them together to form a smooth, pliable dough. Adjust the dough consistency with additional flour or water as needed. Cover and let it rise for atleast an hour or two, or till nearly doubled.

Transfer the dough to a well greased work surface and pat it into a 8"x 5" inch long rectangle. Combine both the cheeses in a separate bowl and spread it over the bread dough. Beginning from the closer end, roll the dough along with the cheese to form a tight roll. Pinch the seams together. Place the dough roll into a 9"x 5" inch baking pan, the seam side facing down. Allow to rise again for another 45 mins to an hour. Bake in the preheated oven at 350 deg F for 35 - 40 mins. Should the top brown too quickly, cover the top with aluminium foil and bake till the center sounds hollow. Allow to cool completely and then slice to serve.

Cheese Swirl Brown Bread Sandwich

Blueberry Muffins


It takes me a while usually to compose myself a good deal of writing here, that's if I have stayed too long away from thinking or haven't perched my fingers on the keyboard for a while. Although this not being the case always, I still feel like a sophomoric with words, for today. Where do I begin? What do I tell you?

We are past a week since the 4th of July and I hope you had a wonderful one like we did. Usually, for us, the 4th of July passes by without notice. That's if we were in India, it would have been just another day. Just like how the 3rd of July rolls up on the calendar, gallops into the 4th and then follows the 5th. But here in the US, it means more than just that.

I did not grow up learning a lot on American history. I don't remember a streak of it either. 4th of July passed as just another date on the calendar. Many years later when I started working, as part of the corporate curriculum, we were trained on the nuances of American lifestyle, their culture, and in general, their ways of life. We were taught, that while dealing with American clients, how one had to roll their tongue to get the 'R's right; a lesson or two that might impress an American and make us sound like one among them. It also preceded into understanding their holidays - the most essential and beneficial part of the training which came with some promises that every offshore engineer had an obligation to know. A promise of leaner workloads on those holidays, one that each of us looked forward to. A promise that one could possibly take a day off and travel far off place to meet their loved ones and share an extra day for the weekend. A promise that we could catch up some extra hours of lunch and coffee breaks that day. There were just a handful few to remember. Those handful that could be counted on fingertips, all defined well by dates and not by planetary movements like ours did. What thrilled us beyond all was the fact that most of these Federal public holidays were observed on the day preceding or succeeding weekend, irrespective of the day of week or weekend it falls in the year.

It intrigues me often why American Independence Day is always greeted with 'Happy 4th of July'. It could well be wished as Happy Independence Day! But like how most cultures are woven through customs and long time traditions, this one still remains to be called Happy 4th of July. So, I ask I hope you had a good one! And, if you know better, let me know why its a 'Happy 4th of July' and not 'Happy Independence Day'!

While the blog-sphere has vast variety of recipes flooding most spaces with the symbolic red and blue colors of the American national flag, I set out to bake some red and blue berry dotted muffins as a tribute to this tradition. My plans to bake Blueberry Raspberry Muffins toppled when I realized I was out of stock on Raspberries and was in no mood to rush out early in the morning. Nevertheless, these Blueberry Muffins were made and devoured for our breakfast, just the American way.

Blueberries


Blueberry Muffins

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup all purpose flour + 1 tbsp to toss blueberries into
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 small egg (If using a large egg, suggest to use 1/2 an egg)
1/2 cup yogurt
3/4 cup fresh blueberries

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 380 degrees F.

In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and set aside. Separately toss the blueberries with a tbsp of all purpose flour and set aside.

In another large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, egg and yogurt. Add the dry ingredients into the wet and stir the mixture gently using a wooden spoon in figure 8 motion. Add the blueberries to mixture, stir them in, reserving a handful of blueberries to be topped on the muffins.

Scoop the mixture to muffin cups and fill up to three quarters. Sprinkle the remaining berries on top of muffins and poke down lightly. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Remove from oven and turn out, and allow to cool completely. Serve warm or store in airtight container for 2 to 3 days.

Blueberry Muffins_2

Chewy Fudge Brownies


Life beats a charming rhythm when you uncork it from its mundanes. It sings a different chime when you whisk away from the regular. Our weekend went by, but it was nothing like the usual. Before it flipped over to Saturday, we headed out of city for three solid days of fun and adventure to a place we had little known or expected it to be. Well, two and half, if I have to be precise. North Conway it is known, a lovely little destination for home-lost adventurers like us. There's so much around there for every season that a couple of excuses to go back there again may not seem enough. Tucked in sheer wilderness under the bellies of New Hampshire, here's where every vacation can be an inspiration to another one.

As the roads wind up to the city of North Conway, the scenes change. Its urban at the face of it, yet cleverly rural. There are malls, restaurants and ad banners everywhere. Yet, as you drive up the northern hemisphere, the mountain peaks play a peek a boo at every tide of the road. There's a cast of green spell in all shades, a submission to nature, with breath taking views that make you wanderlust. It makes you twisted in tongue and in loss of words.

Chewy Fudge Brownies Prep


We went camping in a group of ten, living life in tents and sleeping bags, holding lanterns to cook food on the grill, sitting by the fire and toasting up s'mores, curling up the feet to bare the chilly nights and seeing starry constellations in inky-black skies. And that, makes you forget the clock. And, the cameras too! For the first time ever, we took our SLR out on a trip and came home without shooting any on it. Its hard for me to swallow that.

New Hampshire does that to you. You get to live what you don't see everyday. Many choose to stretch their lazy bones on the sand, either batting their eyelids and soaking up some sun or, flipping a book. But, we went tubing along the river shores where the loons nest. We let the sun shine on our backs. We wallowed and waded through knee deep waters, where the sand and stones make you wiggle your toes and the sun seeps skin deep to stimulate melanin. We ventured into woods and echoed tweets of finches too.

Its the kind of place that makes you want to wake up early to chirping birds and stay up late to the sounds of cicadas. It doesn't matter what hour of the day you are stepping into. There always seems a pause. Where the only other sounds are either the ripples of the meandering Saco river, the sway of tall ferns and chirping of finches. And, that was our home for those two odd days, all well lived.

Chewy Fudge Brownies Cut


When the sun went down to take its customary daily dip, we warmed ourselves by the fire, lit up the grill and ate Quesadillas, Corn on the Cob and drank Sparkling Fruit Mocktails. Brownies followed for the dessert. I baked these Brownies in the morning we left out and took them along for those camping dinner treats. They are wonderful to share in a group where splurging on good food can never seem enough, more so when you are in a gang of ten odd folks who enjoy good food and hearty laughs!

These Brownies are one bowl and simple to make. They are a cross between fudgy and cake-like. While they don't slop, they are intensely chocolaty and rich, much fudge like. They have crackling tops which make them look beautiful. And, no Brownie is good without generous scatter of walnuts. I promise you will love them, as much we all did.

Chewy Fudge Brownies Bites


Chewy Fudge Brownies

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 1/4 cup of bittersweet chocolate
1 cups of granulated sugar
1/4 tsp of salt
2 eggs
1 cup of plain flour
1 tbsp of cacao powder
1/2 tsp of instant espresso coffee powder
1/2 cup of broken walnuts

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9x9” square baking pan by lining it with parchment paper. I like to let the edges of the paper hang up a bit on the sides to make it easy for the removal.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the chocolate chips and melt them over medium low heat. Once melted remove from heat. Alternatively, you can microwave the butter and chocolate chip on high heat for 1 min. Allow it to rest for 2 mins, then add the sugar, eggs, flour, cacao powder, espresso powder, salt and broken walnuts into the melted chocolate butter mixture. Whisk well together. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan, leveling the tops. Bake them for 35-40 minutes. Test by inserting a skewer at the center. The skewer will have flecks, however there should be no wet batter coming out of the baked brownies. Allow them to cool completely and then slice into squares before serving.

Chewy Fudge Brownies Stacked


Notes:

I've used cacao powder here. However, you may use cocoa powder and up the quantity to 2 tbsp. Cacao is stronger than cocoa powder, hence you will require more cocoa powder, if being used.


Over the past 2 months that we have been here in the US, I have baked only once. And that was when these Banana Cardamom Muffins were made, much on demand by my husband. While banana bakes don't make it to the list my top favorites, I love baking with them and I am now slowly getting closer to loving and appreciating them too. I have come to appreciate the way bananas lend an inherent sweetness to a dish and that helps to reduce the overall amount of sugar. And this one certainly did!


It seems ages since I whipped butter with sugar or whisked batter to make good ol' cakes. On our visit to the States last year, I splurged on baking and took advantage of the large convection oven that the homes here are bestowed with. This time around I made a conscious decision to stay away from baking a ton to avoid all that sugar overload.


I cannot possibly imagine a home that does not stock bananas. Its such an easy takeaway fruit with easy-peasy peeling and no de-seeding. So clean, mess free, hassle free and completely satisfying to a sweet tooth!

We get panic attacks at home when we run out of them! Seriously!


I believe every blogger should have a repertoire that boasts of a couple of recipes starring 'the bananas'. Cakes and muffins take the lead here. A banana muffin is the easiest bake you can ever put together and there are little chances that you will go wrong. It replaces egg with utmost ease adding loads of flavor. And it hardly matters how its flavored additionally. It could either be the classic vanilla scented or chocolate studded or just none at all! Either ways, they all taste delicious. Bananas sing by themselves. They have a characteristic sweet flavor of their own. So should you leave them by themselves, they will yet shine. May be a kick of aromatic spices will add bounce to them.


These muffins were made on a lazy afternoon to go along with our evening cup of tea. As I set out the muffin liners and put the batter together, I realized that my pantry had run out of stock for vanilla extract. A BIG sin for any baker, I guess! But here's where traditions come to rescue. Our by-gone generations have sworn by the fact that bananas and cardamoms make a match in heaven. And I cannot deny that! We have grown up eating desserts and sweetmeats made from bananas heavily scented with cardamoms. So, when these muffins were made, they swept our home with warm, mellow headiness from cardamoms, the jaggery and bananas, making these undeniably irresistible to wait till they cooled. Couple of them were downed warm right as they were out of the oven. These muffins certainly make a lovely tea time treat. They are wonderful to carry out on picnics and long drives.

As for me, they brought back warm fuzzy memories of home and my mother's kitchen where the pairing of bananas and cardamom ruled the roost on many occasions.


Banana Cardamom Muffins (Eggless, Vegan adaptable)

Yields 9 large muffins

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup mashed bananas (about 1 large over ripe banana)
1/2 cup milk (replace with soy milk / nut milk of your choice for vegan option)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup powdered jaggery (packed)
1/4 cup fine sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fresh cardamom powder
Handful of chopped walnuts and raisins

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350ºF/180ºC. Line the muffin tin with paper cases.

Mash bananas along with milk, jaggery and sugar in a food processor. To this, add vegetable oil and whisk well. Set aside.

In a separate glass bowl, sift the all-purpose flour and fresh cardamom powder along with baking soda.

Make a well in center of sifted flours. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients. Fold gently. Few lumps are perfectly okay, but do not over beat. Finally fold in the walnuts and raisins. The batter should be thicker than the regular cake batter.

Scoop out spoonful of the muffin batter and dollop them into the lined muffin tins. Scatter a handful of walnuts and raisins. Bake for 25 minutes at 180ºC or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool before removing from pan.


Earlier this month, we placed admissions for our daughter with a school here. It's her first stint of being at school and experiencing life outside the home here in the US. What we call as Nursery back in India, Kindergarten Prep is what they are known here. We opted the 3 day class with 3 hours per day to start with, where our little girl can play, learn and socialize with kids of her age like she did back in India. Unlike last year, I did not have butterflies fluttering my tummy this time around. :)

The school comes with promises. Like most schools do. With all those colorful brochures and pamphlets where couple of tiny tots from different ethnic races in their colorful attire thump their hands high up in the air with a tight fist symbolizing they will emerge to be toppers and winners, I pinned huge hopes on my daughter's learning here. The first two weeks went off in a whiz. Nothing much done. She walked in, played and walked out. She came back home happy with ugly sketch pen scribbles on paper that were below her capacity, or even for a three year old I suppose. Scribbling on paper is the first thing she did as 2 year old toddler. As a 4 year old today, she is equipped well to read and write alphabets and numbers and count them with ease. She draws well within borders and identifies good deal of animals, birds, colors, fruits, vegetables, et al. I expected continuity to her learning instead of re-learning those basics that are of least value to her.


Back in India where she spent a year at pre-school, the teaching curriculum was different than it is here. She went to school in an odd pairing of green blue uniform set, her most hated attire that she never recalls or speaks about here. Teaching, as monotonous it may sound was its methodical best. She had text books for each month - a month for colors, another on seasons, a month for food, a month dedicated to people around us, a month each of something to cover the year. She carried back homework every single day. There were notes with signatures exchanged between the teacher and the parent. Her school followed the Western style of teaching and curriculum, they claim. Yet, there was no respite to uniforms, truck load of homework, project work that seemed more a burden to the parents rather than the children. But in all, there was a lot she learnt progressively over the past one year. There were regular PTAs, a detailed progress card and it made me quite happy.

But here she goes. Essentially to a playschool in real sense. Play, fun and creative learning, they say. Scribbling on paper is no creative learning in my opinion. Its what toddlers do, not preschoolers. D says I could be the typical stereotype Indian mother who expects a lot of academic driven learning from the school and her daughter. I may not be the one, but if I am, I see no harm.

It could take a while for me to come to terms with these differences. Not too long, I know. But by then it will be time for us to head back to India. Till then its stress free, happy learning and exploring for her. For now, I see joy in her making new friends, mingling into diverse cultures and am glad she is enjoying every bit of her preschooler life.


Coming to the recipe, I have this gorgeous salad for you that is not actually complicated to put together as it may sound by the length of this recipe below. You may choose store bought bread croutons or just skip them all together. Even with the basic ingredients this salad gets notched up with sharpness from Feta cheese and Dijon mustard and Honey dressing. The cheesy bread croutons give a lovely crunch and go very well with the sweet-sour salad dressing.

Salad Leaves with Croutons, Pine Nuts, Feta Cheese with Dijon Mustard and Honey Dressing

INGREDIENTS

3 cups packed organic salad leaves (I used a mix of variety of lettuce, baby spinach, romaine, kale, arugula, etc.)
1 tbsp. cup pine nuts
2 tbsp. Feta cheese

For the cheese bread croutons:

2-3 slices of whole wheat bread
1-2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Italian herbs
2 tbsp. of mild cheddar

For the Dijon Mustard and Honey salad dressing:

1/2 tbsp. lime juice
1 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. honey
Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Chop bread slices to cubes of 1.5" each and arrange them side by side on a baking tray. Drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle some dried Italian herbs on them. Bake them in a pre-heated oven at 180 deg C (356 deg F) for 14-16 mins flipping over mid way to ensure even browning. Grate 2 tbsp. of cheddar cheese evenly over these bread cubes and bake them further for 5-6 mins. Remove and allow it to cool on a wire rack. They should crisp well as they cool down.

In a large salad bowl, toss the mixed salad leaves along with the baked bread croutons and pine nuts. Set aside to be tossed with dressing of your choice.

For the salad dressing:

Whisk lime juice, mayonnaise, olive oil, Dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper in a bowl.

To put the salad together, drizzle a generous amount of the prepared Dijon mustard and honey dressing and toss them together. Serve immediately.

Notes:

To make it gluten free, skip the bread croutons or substitute the same with gluten free bread.

Tomato Bread Upma


Hang around here! It may seem a while since I got down here with a good post that brought along a recipe. But I assure, my inspiration to cook and share hasn't faded. Its just got a little dented, I promise. And I'm on my way to fill those dents. The least, I am making an attempt.

If you are on my Instagram feed, you know what we are up to. We've left behind tropical heat and heavy rains of Bangalore and made our way to wilting snow, chill weather and stark landscape of New England region. Two weeks ago we crossed oceans and nations to join D in the US. Yes, again. And its a 3 month vacation this time too. We are back to the country that seems more familiar and less formal this time around. The chill and the numbness is as biting as it previously was, but far more tolerant; probably due to the onset of spring that's just around the corner. So does the familiarity of the naked leafless foliage piercing high into the skies and that typical smell of cold mist in the air (I strongly perceived this the moment I got out of the NYC airport), the drive-right-culture and all other contrasts.

Over the past year since we took the last break and came back to India from US, I rejoined work and our little girl joined school. I moved later to live with my parents for help with our daughter in absence of D, so that our little girl wouldn't miss her dad as often. Life just got woven into busyness and humdrum of the usuals - wake up, rush to work, return home, retire to bed, wake up, rush to work, return home, retire to bed. In iterations, in constant loop as you can imagine. This, peppered with the common juggles of a homemaker and being a mother to a hyperactive, talkative girl made it more demanding. This break was so needed. To slow down a little and make time for self. To wean away from the usual mundanes of life. This time is for togetherness, for D, our little girl and me. Time, to travel places far and around. Time to live hobbies all over again. Time to live time and the moment. Time to whip up more delicious memories together again.

Tomato Bread Upma


On another note, I wanted to share a happy news with all of you. Veg Bowl blog has been featured in First Site Guide under the section 'How To Start a Food Blog' guide as a part of their Useful Resources under No.17 - the 'Best Vegetarian Blogs' list. First Site Guide is all about helping you make your blog the best blog it possibly can be. I am thrilled to be listed here and hope this will reach out to many more readers and help them further.

Last month Veg Bowl turned another year older. It clocked 6 years of happy cooking, blogging and sharing. And though it did not come with any customary blog post with the dessert to call for its sweet celebration, I well know through your mails and comments on the loads of love the blog has whipped up over these years. Here goes a warm and huge bear hug to each one of you from me for being supportive directly or directly and motivating me to hang around, even when the tides were not sailing smooth. A BIG thank you to each of you!

My recipe post for today is this simple, yet delicious Tomato Bread Upma that makes up for a great breakfast or a good tea time snack of bread leftovers. Its spicy, tangy, quick and delicious. Hope you make it and love it as much we do.

Tomato Bread Upma


Tomato Bread Upma

INGREDIENTS

6 slices of whole wheat bread
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 onion, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, finely diced
2 tsp. peanuts
1 sprig of curry leaves
1 tsp. red chilli powder
1 tsp. sambhar powder
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. sugar
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves and chopped green chillies to garnish, optional

DIRECTIONS

Stack the bread pieces on top of each other and dice them through using a knife. Tear them into 1 inch cubes. Else tear them roughly using your fingers, crumbling them through into uneven pieces.

Heat oil in a pan and fry the mustard seeds. Once they splutter, add the peanut and fry till they brown lightly. Then fry the chopped onions and the torn curry leaves. Fry them on medium high flame till the onions turn slightly brown in colour. Next, add the diced tomatoes and fry them till they become mushy and you see oil on the edges of the pan. Add the chopped green chillies, turmeric powder, the sambhar powder, red chilli powder, sugar and fry further for a minute. Add the diced bread pieces and stir them well. Fry for a couple of more minutes stirring till all the spices and tomato paste has coated the bread pieces well. The bread will soften a little and this is unlike the dry bread upma we usually make. Season with salt to taste. Fry further for 2 more minutes. Remove from flame and garnish with coriander leaves and green chillies. Add a dash of freshly squeezed lime juice if required to taste. Serve hot.