January 24, 2008


A "Forever Friends" Hope award was waiting for me from a dear friend Happy cook!:)

Thank you Happy cook from "Kitchen Treasures" for this beautiful award. You have been a great friend to me. I am honored to receive this from you!:)
I would like to pass this award to Latha N and Lakshmi of "The YUM blog". You both are much more than friends to me, thank you for that girls! Enjoy!:)
Let me also thank some of my blogger friends who emailed me last 2 weeks and also who commented here as well. You know who you are and I appreciate your words of encouragement,support and understanding. You do make me feel good to know that you are my true well wishers. Thank you very much!:)

Here are two traditional Italian dishes, Risotto and Calzone I made last week. Both are delicious dishes, adaptable to both vegetarian and non-vegetarian choices and meat Calzones are my kids' favorite! Who doesn't like hand held Pizza on the go?!:D

Garlic-Mushroom Risotto:
Risotto, a traditional Italian dish which is made with Arborio or any short grained Risotto rice, similar to our own Bisibele Bhath in texture except not cooked with lentils. Rice combined with different vegetables and meat, Risotto is an easy dish to make. Although it takes a little time to stir to get that perfect Risotto dish, it's well worth the effort. When done, Risotto should be creamy in texture. By the time I took this photo, it had absorbed most of the stock which made it look a bit dry. I had to add little more stock to it and reheat later, it's a delicious dish!:)

Sunita from "Sunita's World" blog has chosen "Garlic" as her choice this month for her "Think spice..Think.." event. Garlic flavored Mushroom Risotto is my contribution to this event. Thanks Sunita!:)

You need:
1 1/2 cup Arborio or any short grained Risotto rice,
1 cups chopped Portabella or Baby Bella or Porcini Mushrooms,or any combination of Mushrooms you like ,dry and fresh,
4 or more cups of chicken or Vegetable stock (or water),
3 tbsp Butter,
1 onion, finely chopped,
3 Garlic, minced or 1 tsp Garlic powder,
3-4 slices of Dried Tomato slices, chopped,
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated,
few gratings of Nutmeg,
salt and pepper,
2 tbsp fresh Parsley, a sprig to garnish.
To make it:
1. If you are using dried mushroom, soak it for an hr in hot water, squeeze dry (you can save the drained water to add to make up the stock if you like) and chop. Chop the fresh Mushrooms and keep aside. Heat the vegetable stock to simmer.
2. In a heavy bottomed pan, melt butter.Add onion, saute until soft but not brown.Add garlic, stir for a mins. Add all the mushrooms,chopped Tomato slices fry for 2 mins. Pour in rice,mix well to coat with butter. Add salt,pepper to taste.
3. Now add a ladleful of stock at a time to the pan, stir and let it absorb the liqui. Keep adding the stock in this way until rice is cooked and not very dry. When done it should have a creamy texture, add more stock than given here to get that texture. Add nutmeg, parsley and half of the Parmesan cheese, mix and garnish with a sprig of fresh Parsley and rest of the Parmesan gratings on top to serve.

Onion-Broccoli-Feta Calzone and Ham-cheese Calzone:
Calzone, which means "Pant legs or trouser" in Italian, is another "fold over" Pizza which I am sure most kids and adults love. You can make Pizza dough at home or use store bought dough,roll out and stuff with either vegetables or meat with cheese inside to bake them. They do make a hearty meal. Enjoy!:)

JFI aka "Jihva for Ingredients" is started by Indira of Mahanandi blog and it's Radhi from "Radhi's Kitchen" who is hosting this month and she has chosen the quintessential "Onion". We can literally cook anything under the Sun with those onions, can't we? I chose to make delicious sweet Videlia onion, Broccoli and Feta cheese Calzone and Ham and Provolone cheese Calzone. Enjoy Radhi!:)

To make it:

You need: Pizza Dough, vegetables or/and meat of your choice, 1/4 cup of Tomato sauce or Pizza sauce (optional), salt, pepper, red chilli flakes and your choice of cheese and herbs.Egg wash or milk to brush.
To make dough:
1. Dissolve 1 tbsp Yeast in 1 cup warm water(110F), 1 tsp sugar. Let it foam.
2. When foamy, add to 3 cups of plain flour or white or whole wheat bread flour, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp olive oil, and mix and knead to make a soft dough. Add more water if you need it. Easy to make if you use KitchenAid dough hook. If you want herbed dough, add 1 tsp Italian herb mix before kneading. Cover the bowl with damp towel and let it double in a warm place for 1-2 hrs.
To make the vegetarian stuffing:
1. Heat 1 tbsp butter in a pan, add 1 onion sliced thin, 1 garlic sliced, saute until soft. Add 1 10oz bag of thawed and microwaved until cooked Broccoli,salt, few chilli flakes and pepper.
2. Saute until dry and let it cool. Add 1/2 cup Feta cheese(I like Feta with Broccoli although Feta is not a traditional Italian cheese) or any cheese, 1/2 tsp Italian herb mix you like. Mix gently.
For meat stuffing: Roughly chop Ham, Pepperoni or any Sausage you have, mix with salt, pepper, Provolone and cheddar or Jack cheese and 1/2 tsp Oregano. Set aside.
To make Calzone:
1. Punch down the dough, divide into 4 pieces,knead. Take each Pizza dough balls, roll out into 6" circles, place some stuffing of your choice in the center, drizzle 1 tbsp of Tomato sauce(like Ragu)if you like and fold over to make a half circle and pinch the edges to seal each of the Calzone. Make few tiny holes on top of the dough for the steam to escape while baking.
2. You can use Egg wash on top or brush some milk or olive oil to make it look good and shiny but not necessary. I like the rustic look of the Calzones without the egg wash!:)
4. When all of them are ready, put them on a non-stick baking sheet. Cover until the oven heats up.
Preheat the oven to 400F.
5. Put the baking sheet inside and bake for 18 to 25 mins, until crust is golden outside.Don't over bake.

Serve with a salad for a delicious and hearty meal!:)

Now, few pics of "Half Snow day" in NC!:D
Usually, it doesn't snow every year in NC or where I live in NC. We had about 2" snow last Saturday in the afternoon and it was fun lighting the logs in the fireplace, be warm, watch movies and of course eat snacks.Kids and our little Bichon parked themselves in front of the fireplace and had a great time. Now the Sun is back, all the snow has melted and we are back to normal already!!

Books I have read so far:
1. "Pomegranate Soup" by Marsha Mehran,
2. "Memoirs of a lost Egypt" by Colette Rossant,
3. "Mango Season" by Amulya Malladi.

All these books come with authors' memoirs of their home countries (Iran, Egypt and Hyderabad) along with few recipes too. Yes, I will be cooking some of those recipes in my future posts! I will list more as I read them.
I also watched few old black and White and color English movies which are sitting in my shelf for a long time now. Alfred Hitchcock's movies like "Birds" "Psycho", musicals with Fred and Ginger like "Swing Time" and (French) foreign language film "Indo Chine" are my favorites!
Lastly, I published my last post on the 14th here and 10 days later I am publishing this post today. I am proud of myself that I am able to keep my new year resolutions I made so far and am balancing everything now! YAY for me!:D

Have a great time Y'all and enjoy the weekend!:)

January 14, 2008


Hello everybody, wish you a very happy Sankranthi/Pongal to all you! I will resist cooking any sweets atleast until next month!!:)

Now on to a hearty meal!
I am posting a delicious combination of Kashmiri Kidney beans masala and Wheat Bread Baturas (my mom's style), I made last week.Nothing makes you feel better than sitting down with a plate of comfort food, wouldn't you say?
Rajma is also called Kidney beans in English which is different from Rajma, a Punjabi dish which is also made with Kidney beans I posted a while ago, usually served with rice in India. I am talking about Kashmir grown petite Kidney beans cooked in onion-yogurt masala in this post, not the Rajma dish itself. Did you get all that?:D

I am sending this platter of my comfort food to Meeta from "What's for lunch Honey?" blog for her Monthly Mingle theme of "Comfort Foods". Thanks Meeta!:)

Bread Baturas and Kashmiri Rajma masala:
Serve these soft and delicious Bread Baturas with Rajma masala, sliced red onion and a green chilli pepper. Chilli is just for garnish, don't eat that thing!:D

When I was a teenager growing up in India, bread making and cake baking at home was not the norm. It was a luxury to own the little electric oven and bake quick breads which we used to call cakes! Yeast was not available either, now I hear EVERYTHING is accessible there which is wonderful. To cut the story short, my mom used 3-4 slices of regular white bread to replace the yeast to make Baturas softer than the Aloo Baturas or regular Baturas we made at home. These bread Baturas are that version. I used whole wheat bread to mix with this dough which makes it a tad bit more nutritious and adds a great flavor too!

Baturas made with Whole Wheat bread:

To make Baturas, you need these:

1 1/2 cup plain flour (or white bread flour),
3 slices of whole wheat bread,(Crust is okay too,I add it but you can cut them off)
3 tbsp plain yogurt,
1/2 cup milk to soak the bread,
1 tsp salt.
To make them:
1. First soak the bread in milk for 5 mins, squeeze and mash well until it looks like thick, smooth mashed potato.
2. Add this to flour and all the ingredients, mix and knead to a stiff dough adding just enough water by tbsps. DO NOT make it too soft.
3. Cover and let it rest for atleast for 3-4hrs. Knead again, make bit smaller than Tennis ball size rounds, roll out to 5-6" circles,about 1/8" thick,cover with a towel until the oil heats up. Do not fry until oil is hot to avoid oil clogged Baturas.
4. Heat oil to 375F (hot), then fry each Batura as shown here for Pooris and drain on paper towel. Serve hot.
Note: If you want little stiffer and puffed Baturas than soft, you can add 2 tbsp rice flour or cream of wheat(fine Rava/semolina) to the the flour when mixing and kneading.

Susan from "The well seasoned cook" blog has asked us to cook with beans for her "My Legume Love Affair" event. As we all know, beans and pulses are easiest to cook with for all of us from India. I am sure she will be flooded with Indian dishes full of beans! Here is one from me for you Susan. Enjoy and thanks for hosting!:)

Red Kidney beans in general,are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber,minerals,Vitamin B1,Iron, low in cholesterol, provide virtually fat-free high quality protein combined with plain cooked rice, according to WHF foods.
Kashmiri Kidney beans are beautiful in appearance, lot smaller like the size of a Navy beans as you can see in the collage, almost half the size of regular red Kidney beans we usually see in the grocery store with intense red color and very flavorful to cook. Kashmiri Kidney beans are available in dry form in any Indian grocery store. You need to soak them overnight and pressure cook gently until they are soft but still whole, not mushy. This is my own recipe, not my mom's btw!:)

Kashmiri Kidney beans masala:

You need these to feed 4 or more people:

1 1/2 cups of dry Kashmiri Kidney beans (or you can use regular Kidney beans),
1 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp oil,
2 large onions,
1" fresh ginger and 2 large Garlic, ground to paste,
1/2 cup Tomato sauce,
2 tbsp plain yogurt or sour cream,
1/2 tsp chilli pd,
1/4 tsp turmeric,
2 tsp Chickpea flour/Besan (or cornstarch) to thicken
(1 tbsp Coriander seeds powder,
1/2 tbsp Cumin seeds powder,
1/2 tsp Garam masala)

(You can skip all 3 of the above dry spice powders, if you add 2 tbsp of MDH brand Kitchen King Masala you get in the Indian grocery store which gives a great taste. That's what I usually use in this dish)
Aromatics to garnish:
1/4 tsp Cardamom pd,
a pinch of Nutmeg gratings
Cilantro to garnish.

To make Rajma masala:
1. Soak Beans over night, cook in the pressure cooker with some water until soft but whole, not mushy. Set aside.
2. Slice onions,add a cup of water, cover and microwave for 5-10 mins until opaque and soft. Yeah, it stinks but what can you do?:D
3. When onion is cooler, grind in the blender to coarse paste. Set aside.
4. Heat a deep dish, add butter+oil, heat. Add ground onion,salt and turmeric, stir for 5-10 mins on medium heat. Add ginger-garlic paste, stir for 2 mins.
5. Add all the dry spices, mix well. Pour in Tomato sauce,let it cook until you see it thicken and shiny on top for 5-8mins.Adjust the salt and chilli pd.
6. Turn down the heat to low, add yogurt and mix well, simmer for 15mins.
7. Add all the aromatic powder, minced cilantro and mix well. Tastes better the next day or two. Chill in fridge and reheat when needed in the microwave.

Bon Apetit!:))

Enjoy Foodie's Hope and Aroma, have a wonderful week!

January 09, 2008


These two Thalis are my contribution to Regional Cuisine of India, which is started by Lakshmi from "veggie cuisine" and Jyotsna from "Curry Bazaar" is hosting this event this month showcasing the beautiful state of Kerala. Thanks for hosting J!:)
(Yes I know! I broke the "limit to 2-3 dishes" rule but this is RCI and just two meals from Kerala state you see!! I am absolutely keeping all my the other resolutions intact and execute strictly!)

Kerala, often referred as "God's own country" for its green, lush soothing scenery and "Amsterdam of India" because of it's intricate rivers and back waters run throughout the state, is situated Malabar Coast of southwestern India. The economy is being mostly agricultural, some of the key crops of Kerala are tea, coffee, rubber, cashew, cardamom, pepper, Coconut and cinnamon. Kerala is also a very popular tourist destination for Ayurvedic therapeutic treatments.
Kerala is the melting pot of many cultures and civilizations, consisting various cuisines of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Bene Israelis of Cochin and with the influence of Dutch, Portuguese and British. Popular Vegetarian feast called Sadya and non-vegetarian cuisine including Beef which is rarely cooked in other Indian states are the norm depending on the religion/sect they belong to. Appams, Puttu and Pathiri are typically Keralite.
The people of Kerala are called Malayalees as the language spoken in Kerala is Malayalam. Kerala's legacy in art and culture dates back to centuries, being known for Koodiyattam, Kathakali and folk songs.

One of most recognizable images of Kerala is the procession of beautifully decorated Temple Elephants during Onam festival which Kerala celebrates with great aplomb around Aug/Sept and boat race which is popular.Here is the story behind Onam festival.

Now the cuisine:
Kerala cuisine is so simple yet so delicious. Except Kadala curry, a similar dish we do make in Karnataka, every other dish you see here was new to me and tried for the first time and boy, was I in for a treat!!
All these recipes came from "The Essential Kerala Cookbook" authored by Vijayan Kannampally. All the dishes came out fabulously, I will cook more from this book for sure.You can see the book in the collage shown below.

Rice, Ragi and Coconut Puttu, Kozhi Mappas(Chicken in Coconut milk), Kadala Kari (Brown Chickpeas curry) and Papad:
I bought Puttukutti specially for this event. I had never cooked Puttu before and it will be on my menu often after tasting this! We make Thari or Coorgi Paputtu in a similar way but steamed in the plates. You can steam this mixture in like Idlis too if you don't have Puttukutti. Click on highlighted links to buy both Aapam chatti and Puttukutti.

For making Puttu:
If you don't have the Puttu maker, you can put the rice mix in the Idli stand or in Ramekins and steam them as usual in the pressure cooker.

1. Take 1 cup Rice flour (making the easy way than soaking and grinding the rice), 1/4 cup Ragi (red millet) flour, 1/4 cup grated coconut mixed with pinch of turmeric for color in separate bowls.
2. Take about 3/4 water, mix 1/4 tsp salt. Sprinkle this on rice flour just until they slightly wet but not soaked. Do the same with Ragi flour.
3. Fill the bottom part of Puttu maker with water halfway, heat it medium high. Meanwhile, add in layers, 1/3rd of coconut to the bottom of the tube, 1/2 the rice flour, 1/2 the ragi flour,1/3rd Coconut, rest of the Ragi flour, rest of the rice flour and top with coconut,cover and place this on the boiling water.
4. Making sure steam is coming thru' the top of the tube holes, steam for 8 mins. Take off the tube and push the bottom plate to release the Puttu.
Note: If you don't want layers, mix Rice flour and coconut together, wet it slightly and steam. Look in the collage for photo of plain Puttu. Coconut itself doesn't have gluten to stick.I prefer Puttu made this way than in layers.

Kadala Curry:
One of the most popular and delicious Chana curry, almost all the bloggers from Kerala have this dish posted in their blogs! Now it's in mine too, although I am not a Keralite!:D
You need:
Soak 2 cups of kala chana (brown chickpeas) overnight,drain the water, cook in the pressure cooker until soft with 2 cups or more fresh water.Mix in 1 tsp Tamarind paste,set aside.
Grind all these to a smooth paste:
1/4 cup grated fresh coconut, 1 tbsp Coriander seeds, 1/2 tbsp Cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp chilli powder, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 8-10 pepper corns, 4 cloves, 1" cinnamon stick.
For seasoning:
2 tbsp oil and ghee mix, 1/2 tsp Mustard seeds, few curry leaves, 1 onion chopped, 1" ginger and 2 garlic ground to paste, 1 sliced green chilly.
To make it:
1. Heat oil, add mustard seeds and curry leaves. Add in onion and green chilly, fry for 2 mins until soft,add ginger-garlic paste,fry for a minute.
2. Add the cooked brown Chana to this with enough salt, let it boil for 2 minutes or so. Turn down the heat and add coconut paste and let it simmer for 5 mins on low heat.
3. When you see the little oil on top, it's done.Garnish with Cilantro.

Chicken Mappas:
A popular Chicken dish in Kerala gently simmered in coconut milk, it's delicious to eat with plain cooked rice. As any Indian gravy dish, it tastes much better the next day.You can any meat to this recipe like Lamb, Mutton or Beef.
You need;
Wash, cut 2 lbs Chicken into bite size pieces and set aside. Keep 1 can or 2 cups of Coconut milk ready and minced Cilantro for garnish.
Grind these to smooth paste:
2 garlic, 1" fresh ginger, 1/2 tsp chilli pd, 1 tbsp coriander seeds, 1 tsp Peppercorns, 1" cinnamon, 3 cloves, a pinch of Nutmeg, 1 tsp Fennel seeds, few curry leaves,1-2 green chillies, 1/4 onion chopped, 1/8 tsp turmeric with 1 tsp of vinegar and enough water.
2 tbsp oil+ghee mixed, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, few curry leaves, 1 large onion finely chopped.
To make it:
1. Season with oil, mustard, curry leaves and onion, fry until soft but reddish. Add ground masala, stir-fry for a minute or two until raw smell goes. Add chicken and mix well until they are white.
2. Add 1 cup of water, mix, cover and cook until the chicken is almost cooked. Turn down the heat, add coconut milk and simmer for 5 mins until you see the sauce thickening and smells great.
3. Garnish with minced cilantro.

Aapams, Nenthrapazham Kootukari,Varutha Thenga Chammanthi and Idichakka Thoran:
I know they are all mouthful to say but here are what they are. Aapams are yeast fermented rice batter pancakes cooked in Aapam Chatti or pan (I bought that too!), Plantain-Carrot-Chana-Greenpeas Kootu Curry, Roasted coconut-red chillies chutney and a tender Jackfruit stir-fry called Thoran! YUM!!

This is the modern day non-stick Aapam Chatti with sloped edges to make Aapams in place of traditional cast iron Chatti. You can use small Chinese Wok too if Chatti is not available.

1. Soak 1 1/4 rice for 3 hrs, drain and add to a blender. Soak 1 tsp quick acting Yeast, 1/2 tsp sugar and 2 tbsp warm water, let it foam for 5 mins.
2. . Add yeast mixture to blender with raw soaked, drained rice, 1/2 cup of cooked rice and 1 tsp Cumin seeds along with 3/4 cup of water. Grind these to a very smooth paste.
3. Take out in a big bowl, add 1 1/2 cups coconut milk, 1 tsp salt. Mix well, cover and let it ferment for 6 hrs.
3. Heat Aapam chatti, add a ladleful of batter, lift the pan, tilt and swirl the batter around to make a circle, put it back on the heat, cover and cook until done but still remain white. No flipping necessary to cook the other side for this yummy pancake!!

Immediately after the cooking the Aapam, it should look like this! They do collapse after sometime.
I like these Aapams better than Puttu with side dishes. Puttus needs little getting used to like it. But these Aapams smell and taste so delicious!:)

Plantain Kootukari:
2 Plantains, cut into 1" cubes, cooked, 1/4 cup frozen Greenpeas, 1/4 cup black chickpeas(Kala chana), cooked, 2 Carrots cut into 1" cubes, all cooked with enough water. Cilantro to garnish.
Grind these to smooth paste:
1/2 cup coconut, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp chilli powder, 4-6 peppercorns, few curry leaves, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp tamarind paste.
For seasoning:
2 tbsp oil+ ghee, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp Cumin seeds, 1 tbsp Urad dal, 2 broken dry red chillies, few curry leaves.
To make Kootukari:
1. Season with oil etc as shown above. When they splutter, add cooked vegetables with it's water and heat it.Add more water if you need it for few minutes.
2. Lower the heat, add the coconut paste and simmer for 5 mins until thick and smells good.Garnish with cilantro.

Roasted Coconut chammanthi:
This is most delicious chutney I have ever eaten,never used the roasted coconut before! I think traditionally they just pound these together to make thick chutney without adding any water like my grandmother does sometimes, which I know tastes lot better than grinding with water in a blender!
1. Heat a pan, fry 1 cup fresh grated coconut in 1 tsp oil until it is reddish, put in a blender. Add and fry 3-4 dry red chillies, 4 Pearl onions or 2 shallots, 1" fresh ginger, 12 curry leaves in 1 tsp oil for 2 minutes.
2. Add this to the blender along with 1/2 tsp tamarind paste, 1/8 cup or less water and salt.
3. Grind to a coarse or smooth thick paste whichever way you like it and serve.

Raw Jackfruit Thoran:
My personal favorite,simple to make and very delicious to eat with Aapam. I used a 15oz can of raw Jackfruit to make this. We loved it!:)
1. Open the can, drain and chop raw tender Jackfruit into small 1" pieces, or cut and cook 2 cups of fresh raw Jack fruit with some water, drain. It should be dry since it's a stir-fry. Set aside.
2. Grind 1/4 cup coconut, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, turmeric,2 red chillies, 1 tbsp onion to a coarse paste. Set aside.
2. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan, add 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp dry red chili flakes, few curry leaves, 1/2 onion minced. When golden, add cooked dry Jackfruit, salt and ground paste and stir fry for few minutes until shiny. That's it. Delicious Thoran is ready!

Click to enlarge to see all the above dishes along with the book I referred and my improvised Rice-Coconut Puttu:

These are the most satisfying authentic dishes from Kerala I have ever cooked, I will make more dishes from the book in future posts. Enjoy and have a great weekend. From next time, I will try and keep the post limited to 2-3 dishes except for RCI posts!:D

January 02, 2008


My family wishes a very happy and healthy New Year to all of you. Let's all have a great new year!!:)
Last year we were in Orlando, FL at this time and had published my 2006 New year post from there! I am at home this year and enjoying it too!:D
I am welcoming 2008 starting with a delicious Coconut-Raspberry Layer Cake and ending with Black Eyed Peas Hummus and fritters to bring our family good luck as southerners believe!
Another dish with Black Eyed Peas I made last year is "Hopping John" and another Spinach dish you could try is "Spinach-Ricotta Gnocchi". Enjoy!!:)

Photo from istockphoto.

I can't believe how fast 2007 went by!!
It was a wonderful and fun year for us. Hope it will be as peaceful, happy and healthy in 2008 as well. Usually I don't make any new year's resolutions as I accept life as it comes to me. But I will be making few changes in the way I blog this year to have a tad more time with my kids who are growing up with a lightening speed!:D
Here they are...
1. To take frequent and complete blog breaks, absolutely no visiting any blogs on weekends and limit to 2-3 recipes in one post except RCI posts if I can! I will try my very best!!:D
2. To visit only the blogs of the my regular readers which I do enjoy, who come to my blogs every week with their sweet comments (if you are taking a break for any reason, it's quite okay not to visit of course!) and to visit few of my favorite bloggers who do not blog that often. That means if I see your name in my blogs, I will see you in your's, fair isn't it? :D
There will be a new blog roll this year. You can't believe how many blogs I visit everyday blindly, just because they pop up in my blog roll! Even in some blogs who almost never comment in my blog! It's taking lot of time out of my day to visit 80+ blogs every single day which I have blog rolled since June 2006! I have just realized this in the last month or so. I know! I am a bit slow to catch on!:P
3. To convince myself NOT to feel obligated to enter every event out there in the blogosphere, it's okay for me not to participate if I don't have the time or inclination and NOT to feel guilty about it!
4. Lastly and most importantly, make and spend more time with my kids talking to them, to get involved even more in their day to day happenings and guiding both to enable them to make the right choices/decisions in their lives. It is very tough to raise teenagers and deal with their "attitudes", "issues" and "mood swings" etc! Hahaha!
I will have 2 teenagers at home this March as Tushar is turning 13! After hearing Brittany Spears family saga, watching films like JUNO and looking at teenage moms walking into my daughter's junior and senior high school classes with their tiny babies, I better spend more time with my kids discussing about choices so they can manage their lives in the right way! Specially spend more time talking with my son (don't want him to be a teenage father either now, do I?!) more than my girl who will be 17 yrs old who seems to be far more mature for her age thankfully!!
Okey dokey, these are enough goals for this year, let's see how these work out first!:D

Here I go....

Coconut Layer Cake with Raspberry and Buttercream filling:

I am sending this to Bindiya from "In love with food" for her "These are a few of my favorite things" event with a theme of "cakes and Muffins" this month. Thanks Bindiya, enjoy!:)
This beautiful Coconut-Raspberry celebration cake recipe(with my own slight changes) came from a book called "Perfect Cakes" by Nick Malgieri, which is to me is the best cake book ever! Yes, it takes time and lot of butter and egg whites to make this cake but worth making once a year, specially if it has my favorite sweetened coconut!!:)

For the Cake you need:
2 1/4 cups cake flour or plain flour,
1 tbsp baking powder,
1/2 tsp salt,
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened,
1 1/2 cups sugar,
1/2 tsp coconut essence or Vanilla essence,
1 1/4 cups milk,
1/2 cup egg whites (from about 3 to 4 large eggs,separated)
Buttercream filling:
1/2 cup egg whites (from about 4 large eggs),
1 cup powdered sugar,
20 tbsp (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened,
1 tsp vanilla essence.
For garnish:
1/2 cup seedless raspberry preserve or Jam,
One 7 oz bag of sweetened shredded coconut.

Two 8" round cake pans, lined with parchment or wax paper and sprayed with oil or buttered.

To bake the cake:
First, preheat the oven to 350F.

1. Sift the cake flour, baking powder, and salt onto a paper or a plate.
2.Beat the butter and the sugar with a paddle attachment in a mixer until light and creamy. Add in the essence.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the milk and the egg whites. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture in the blender to the butter mix and beat until smooth. Add in 1/2 the egg white mixture and then add in 1/3 of the flour mixture. Beat well. Add in the remaining liquid and the flour mix. Mix until well incorporated.
4. Divide the batter between two pans and bake for 30-35 minutes or until done. Cool in the pans for five minutes and then cool on the racks. Peel off the paper.
To make buttercream filling:
Whisk egg whites and sugar in the electric mixer first. Take the bowl out and put it over a pan of simmering water to whisk until the egg whites are hot, and sugar has dissolved. Attach it again to the blender, whip this mixture until cool, increased in volume and buttery smooth. Beat in vanilla essence.
To layer the cake:
Slice each layer of the cake horizontally into half into 4 slices. Place on layer on the platter. Spread with 1/3 of jam and then 1/4 of buttercream on it. Top with another layer of cake and repeat. Place the last layer on top and spread the top and sides of the cake with the remaining buttercream. Press the sweetened coconut all over the outside of the cake. Chill the cake for 2 hrs to set the cream and coconut.
Serve at room temperature or you can keep it the fridge for about 3 days. Enjoy!:))

Black Eyed Peas Hummus with crisp Olive oil-herb Pita wedges, few Dimes for luck and Black eyed peas and Spinach fritters!
Hummus recipe is from "Holiday Celebrations" cook book and Southern US style fritters are like the yummy Indian Pakodas, but made using plain flour/Maida. Black eyed peas called "Alasande" in Kannada, which is my favorite beans to make side dishes for rotis or Saaru with rice. I used canned black eyed peas which makes the job easier for me and added spinach to fritters to bring us prosperity and few dimes for good luck on the plate, not inside the fritters to save our teeth!:D

According to southernfood.about.com, "A staple in the Southern diet for over 300 years, black-eyed peas have long been associated with good luck. A dish of black eyed peas is a New Year's tradition in most areas of the South, thought to bring luck and prosperity for the new year. Jessica Harris, author of "Welcome Table" says in her book that some add a dime to the peas for an extra "boost" of luck to the recipient. Greens, thought to symbolize folding money, are often eaten with the black eyed peas on new year's day". (1 Dime=10cents)

To make Hummus:
This is the ame recipe as delicious Chickpeas Hummus but added Black eyed peas instead, was very tasty with crisp Pita bread. You can use crisp Tortilla and Khakras(Indian crisp rotis) for dipping too. Hope you try.

You need:
1 can (15oz) Black eyed peas or 2 cups cooked Black eyed peas,
1 tsp Cumin seeds powder,
1-2 Garlic,
few Cilantro leaves,
3-4 tbsp Tahini or Toasted Sesame seeds paste,
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste,
2 tbsp Lemon juice to taste,
water, only if needed to thin to your consistency,
Red or green onion, finely chopped, cilantro to garnish.

To make it:
Grind all the above to a fairly smooth paste adding enough water to thin it to a thick puree. Serve in a bowl garnished with onion and cilantro pieces.
Herb Pita wedges:
Take 3 to 4 Pita bread, brush them with Olive oil and any herbs like Parsley or chives or even spice powder you like on the top. Cut each Pita into 8 wedges. Heat the oven to 350F and place Pita and bake for 5 mins or until just until crisp, not brown. Take them out and cool.

Black eyed peas-Spinach Fritters:
I loved these fritters, best eaten hot and crisp right after frying. Make sure spinach is dry, dough thick and oil is hot(370F) when frying to prevent them soaking too much oil. Enjoy.

You need:

1 can (15oz) Black eyed peas or 1 1/2 cups cooked Black eyed peas,
1/2 cup or more Plain flour,
1/8 tsp or a pinch of Baking soda,
1 tbsp Cornstarch or corn flour,
4 tbsp chopped Cilantro or Parsley,
1/2" finely minced ginger,
1/2 tsp garlic pd,
1/4 cup finely chopped Onion,
1/2 cup chopped Spinach,(if using frozen, squeeze them well until dry)
1 tsp Cumin seeds,
salt and red chilli flakes to taste.

To make fritters:
1. Heat enough oil to 370F to deep fry.
2. Add drained cooked peas in to a bowl, mash roughly until coarse with your hands or with a spoon but not into a smooth paste. It should still have pieces of beans visible but mashed coarsely.
3. Add in all the other ingredients shown above, and mix well to a very thick dough like Pakora mix. Since beans don't have much gluten to hold them together, you should add plain flour to make it thick enough to bind the dough.
4. Adjust the salt and chilli flakes and using two spoons, drop large Walnut sized, oval shaped fritters into the hot oil and deep fry until golden all over.
Serve with Ketchup or hot sauce.

Here is our Christmas feast; Honey baked Ham, Cranberry sauce, spicy Potato fry, Coleslaw, Apple-Orange Marmalade-Feta cheese salad and Italian Panettone!

Well..I had planned to post this on the 1st of Jan. but then realized it's a public holiday and went to watch "I am legend" with the family (not worth the money!). Trisha and I went to see Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd" last Wednesday and enjoyed it thoroughly. Watch it if you get a chance, beware of the spurting blood and gore though!
Have a great beginning Y'all!! See you next Wednesday as usual with some Indian dishes, had enough of cakes and cookies already!:D