January 27, 2010

Steakhouse style Bushman bread, Easy Cinnamon-Sugar Rolls, Spicy Onion-Chilli Crackers

Hello friends....It's Wednesday, that time for my long "just-once-a-week-but-with-multiple-dishes-Books-Movies" post again! I do feel your pain..I do....I do! Please bear with me!! ;D

Here is a bread as I had planned to bake last week. I hadn't baked in few weeks, so I thought it's high time I used my oven. This particular Bread is called Bushman Bread. I am assuming here that it's a Australian country style bread as you can guess by it's name. Whenever we go to Australian style (Americanized?) Outback Steakhouse restaurant, they serve these freshly baked dark chocolate colored (almost like Ragi flour bread! :D), elongated bread speckled with yellow coarse cornmeal for a starter along with whipped soft butter and a big serrated knife. It's slightly sweet and very tasty bread, my kids fight over it. I desperately wanted to try to bake this bread at home but where do you I get the recipe?

Well...Todd Wilbur comes to the rescue of course!! He has written many "Top Secret Restaurant recipes" books, your favorite chain restaurant dishes which he experiments in his kitchen to replicate/clone the restaurant tastes. I have bought 3 of his books. I found this Bushman bread recipe is in his second book which also lists hundreds of recipes cloning different chain restaurant dishes. I have tried few of his KFC recipes like Coleslaw and Potato salad, turned out very well, some don't taste like the original but very close.

Honey-Wheat Bushman bread has a unique dark color which is hard to get just by adding Cocoa powder but this author has mastered that dark chocolate color by adding 3 different food colors. As you can see, bread is delicious by adding very less sugar, dark Molasses and some honey. This recipe I have used is almost as it is in his book except I added less honey and some Walnuts for texture. I made the shape of the bread to 4 round loaves instead of elongated shapes, less work for me and they freeze very well in air tight Zip-Lock bags for later use. I also made extra Virgin Olive oil dip with herbs for this bread (since I made my bread lot less sweeter than his recipe). I like it better than having it with Butter. Original Bushman bread as they serve in the Outback steakhouse looks like this. Enjoy.

Slice of Honey-Walnut Bushman Bread with soft whipped Butter:

I made this with less honey than required, so it will taste good with Herby Olive oil as a dip. If you want to make it sweet, add more honey and skip milk as I have given you in (....). Brush the whipped sweet Butter thinly on the slice and enjoy. Here are more breads, cakes etc. I have posted before in both of my blogs.

Make Yeast mix first:
1. Heat 1 1/4 cup water until luke warm.
2. Add 2 tsp Sugar and 1 Pack or 2 1/4 tsp of dry active Yeast and let it foam for 5 mins. Make sure dry Yeast is fresh, not sitting there in your pantry and expired as it happens to me sometimes.
3. Once foamed, add 1 1/4 tsps red food color, 1 tsp Yellow food color, 1 tsp blue food color to yeaat mix and mix. (Believe me, you get that amazing dark color with this mix of colorings!)
Keep few tbsps of coarse yellow Cornmeal for topping the dough.

1. Mix 2 cups Bread flour (or plain flour if you don't have the Bread flour), 1 3/4 cup whole Wheat flour, 1 tbsp Cocoa powder and 1 tsp salt, mix well.
2. Add 2 tbsp softened Butter at room temperature and mix with dry flour mixture, rub in the butter.
3. Add 3 tbsp finely chopped Walnuts, 2 tbsp Molasses, 2 tbsp Honey ( or 4tbsp honey if you want sweeter, skip milk), 2 tbsp Milk.
4. Add Yeast mixture to flour mixture, mix and knead for 10mins. Make a dough, cover and let it rise for 2 hours or double in size.

1. Divide this dough into 4 or 6 equal portions. I made into 4 round loaves. Traditionally, make into 6 portions, roll to a 6" by 2" elongated logs.
2. Rub some water on the loaves with your hand, then sprinkle Cornmeal on top of each, press gently to make then stick. Book says roll the whole log in Cornmeal but I thought sprinkling is on top is better. Your choice.
3. Place these on a cookie sheet, cover with plastic wrap ot towel. Let it rise again for an hour or double in size again.
To bake:

Heat the oven to 350F.
Uncover the loaves and bake them for 30-40mins. Cool them on a rack and serve.

Honey-Wheat Bushman bread loaf with Olive oil and herb dip:
If you make the Bushman bread with less honey, not so sweet, Olive oil with herbs and lemon juice makes a wonderful dip for these slices. If you make it sweeter, just serve the slices with whipped Butter or Cream cheese.
Olive oil dip with herbs for not so sweet Bushman bread:

Whisk 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive oil, 2 tsp fresh Lemon juice, 1 tsp dry Italian mixed herbs, 1/4 tsp Garlic powder (Optional), pinch of salt and pinch of sugar well until well mixed and creamy.
Sending this to PJ's "No Cook" dishes event, enjoy the dip and thanks for hosting PJ.

Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Crescent rolls:

When the kids come home from school in the evening tired and hungry, these are perfect for those times. I don't like desserts/sweets personally (give me few savory snacks anytime instead!:P) but I often make these little quick Cinnamon and sugar/brown sugar rolls using Pillsbury Crescent crust (comes in tubes) for my son. You can use any short crust pastry or bread dough and follow the same procedure. Dust with some sugar powder or drizzle with icing on top. If you want to try authentic Cinnarolls, click here for my recipe.
Here is how:
Open the can, spread the 8 triangles you get in the can on a non-stick cookie sheet. Pinch the dough gently and close all the gaps you see in the triangles to make one big rectangle sheet. Do not stretch or press the dough hard. Butter is not needed. Sprinkle 2 tbsps good quality sweet Cinnamon powder (not the spicy Cassia bark powder like Indian one) evenly on top, then sprinkle as much sugar as you like, white or brown sugar (ran out of Brown sugar which I prefer usually), press very lightly for them to stick. Take a plastic knife so you don't damage the non-stick surface of the cookie sheet with steel knife, cut lengthwise in the middle, roll from the side tightly to a long rope, seal the sides by pressing the ends. Repeat the other side.
Then cut about 2-3" portions out of long rope, separate the portions and put the upright with the swirls showing on top. Bake at 350F (or as the instruction says on the tube) for 15-17mins. Do not bake until very crispy. They cook as they cool but make sure sugar starts melt. Use your judgment how long to bake depending on your oven, ovens varie in temp. Take the sheet out, drizzle icing on top while they are hot or if you want to use Sugar powder on top, let the rolls cool before you dust then with confectioner's sugar . Cool thoroughly on a rack, store in a container with tight lid and serve.
Icing: Mix 1/2 cup Sugar powder and 2-3 tsps of milk or cream, mix to a creamy consistency. You can add food color of your choice of younger kids to make it attractive.
Sending this to Rahin's "Semi-Homemade" event. Thank you Rahin, enjoy the event! :)

Here ( http://foodieshope.blogspot.com/2009/03/two-kerala-delicacies.html) is another Savory Spinach and Feta rolls I made last year with the Pillsbury Crescent triangles.

Onion-Chilli Flakes baked Crackers:
Shammi of "Food in the Main" blog started this trend (Thank you Shammi!) of baking these great tasting "Crunchy baked Methi Biscuits" few years ago. She posted it in 2006 to be exact and this wonderful biscuit/crackers recipe caught on like wildfire making rounds in many blogs, just like the "No knead bread". We are all baking away these very tasty crunchy crackers with slight variations of our own ever since then.
I based the recipe for my Onion-chilli flakes crackers/biscuits on Shammi's original recipe with my own variation ie adding some Rice flour for crispness and few tbsps of Besan for taste and color (with not so healthy plain white flour too! :D). Didn't add Methi mainly because of unavailability of good quality Methi leaves here. Nevertheless, they taste fabulous. Here is my way with slight variation, enjoy.

For onion crackers, you need:
1 1/2 cups Plain all purpose flour, (you can use Whole Wheat flour)
6 tbsp rice flour,
2 tbsp Besan/Chickpea flour,
3 tbsp butter, melted,
2 tbsp oil,
1 tsp Baking soda,
1 tsp or more salt,
1 small Onion, very finely chopped,
2 tsp dry red chilli flakes or 2-3 fresh red or green chillies finely chopped,
1/2 tsp crushed Peppercorns and 1 tsp Garlic pd, (optional),
1 tbsp Sesame seeds,
2 tsp crushed or powdered cumin seeds,
2 tsp Coriander seeds, coarsely crushed or powdered,
1 tbsp each Coriander leaves and curry leaves,very finely chopped.
1/4 cup water or more as I needed.

To bake these crackers:
1. Mix all the above ingredients including herbs, soda, salt, butter and oil until crumbly first, then add water by the tbsps and knead gently to a slightly firm dough, adjusting the salt, spices and water as needed. Don't make it too soft like Chapati dough!
2. Roll out the dough to 1/8" or 1/4" thick circle, take a 2" or 3" round cookie cutter or in shapes like Shammi's biscuits and cut them out. (or you can take small portions of dough balls and press them to small circles by your palm or using your fingers as well)
3. Place them on a parchment paper on a cookie sheet/tray 1" apart from each other. Gather the remaining dough after you cut the rounds, knead to a mass again, roll out and cut more circles.

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Bake them for about 30-40mins depending on your oven or until they are slightly golden on the edges. Don't bake too long. They keep baking even after they are taken out of the oven.

Tip: Don't let them get too brown in the oven. If you think these crackers are slightly unbaked in the middle after you take them out and cooled, you can always put them in the microwave and heat up for few seconds/mins. Once they are cooled, they will get crisp again. Can't fix them if you let them bake too much, can you?!
I am sending these crackers to Priya's "Cooking with seeds-Sesame seeds" event, thanks for hosting Priya!
Movies I rented to watch from the Red box:

"Surrogates" ,
one of those Science fiction movies. It's alright, a entertaining thriller, watchable once. One man trying to save the humanity again, this time against the future Technology.
Bruce Willis is my son's most favorite actor. My son watches all his movies, specially "Die Hard" movies multiple times and even gets VERY upset if Bruce Willis dies in one of the movies! I think if Bruce Willis is ready to adopt him, my son will say "yes, please" and just move out of here in a second!! ;D
"SAW VI" released on DVD, latest one of my favorite scary movie "SAW" series. Mr.Jigsaw says "once you see death up close, then you know the value of life". So he tortures the bad people who don't care about others, lets them punish themselves and learn from this experience if they survive. This time, it's that Heath Insurance management guy's turn to pay for his sins who approves or disapproves your health insurance application, thereby deciding whether you and your family members live or die! A must watch but don't watch this movie if you don't have the stomach for blood and gore. Of course I loved it! GRUESOMEly awesome!!! Hahaha!
"This is it", Micheal Jackson's most beautiful last movie or rehearsal video recorded just before he died. He was truly a genius, looked reasonably healthy, a bit thin and nervous but very happy to be there on that stage. You can feel it in your bones how much love he had for music and perfection when you watch him act, dance, sing so naturally and as an artist, his unnecessary death is a humongous loss to us all. RIP, MJ.
"Bright Star", a love story between British poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne. He dies at the young age of 25 of a disease, believing himself as failure as a poet! Very interesting and very tragic.

After sra commented about the book she was reading in my last week's post written by David Sedaris (who is from North Carolina which made me more curious about his books and found out that he is also on NPR's "This American Life."!), I quickly downloaded one of his books "Naked" to my Kindle 2. It's really hilarious to read, he has a wicked sense of humor. I just started reading the first few chapters, made me laugh already. Thanks sra.
I also ordered his book Me Talk Pretty One Day too but should have bought his Audio Cd book. Listen to a sample here, sounds so funny with NC accent, doesn't it? Can't wait to read the book. Nice change for me to read these lighthearted books with a smile after reading pretty serious books like "Push" and "Say you are on of them" last month!

Have a enjoyable weekend.

January 20, 2010

Masala Rava Idlis, Potato-Carrot Kurma, Peanut Chutney and Flax seed Chutney powder Paratha

I trust that you are all enjoying relatively better weather for the past few days. We had almost 60F after a month of bitter cold temperature, great to feel the warm Sun on your face. Of course I have already forgotten all about those dog days of last Summer with 98F! :D

Martin Luther King, Jr.:
This is the house where he was born on Jan 15th, 1929 in Atlanta, GA. We were in Atlanta, GA for New Year's weekend, visited the Zoo, GA Aquarium and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Museum, his home, his church etc,. Thought I would post this photo of his pretty house for you.

Last weekend was fun too. We went to Monster Truck Jam at last after missing that event many times before. It was so much fun. There were about 6-7 Monster trucks and was only one lady driver in this Dalmatian Monster Truck with a tail and a pink tongue too, very cute! We screamed the loudest for the lady. She was very good!! But a truck called Grave Digger won in the end. With a name like that, you better believe he would win too! :D

Well..looks like my brain is thawed too just like the weather. Last week, I couldn't think of anything new to post for this week. I guess with my 166+ posts and thousands of dishes here, I have anything left to post every Wednesday! That was what I was thinking but then I realized that I have never posted Rave/Rava idlis as my mother makes them back home. So I made Rava Idlis with some herbs and spices along with a Kurma and Peanut chutney. Makes great combo for dinner and I also used Porcelain or ceramic cereal bowls to steam the Rava idlis instead of using regular Idli stand, so one single idli would be very filling. Give it try if you like, Idlis are my mother's version, Kurma is something I usually cook with different combination of vegetables with the same spice paste, this time with just Carrots and Potatoes and I love the taste of roasted Peanuts in chutney with these Idlis! :)

Masala Rava/Semolina/Cream of Wheat Idlis, Potato-Carrot Kurma with spicy Peanut Chutney:
I steamed these idlis in a wide mouthed ceramic/Porcelain cereal bowls, two at a time in the pressure cooker, stacking the bowls on top of each other. I keep one bowl filled halfway with batter at the bottom of the pressure cooker, use Chinese (flat wooden) chop sticks across the bowl and keep another bowl on top to steam without the use of pressure cooker weight. You can just use the regular Idli stand with this batter. Also adjust the Buttermilk in this recipe to add less or more depending on the quality of Semolina you have at hand, should be like Idli batter somewhat.

Masala Rava Idli:
1 1/2 cups of coarse Semolina/Rava (don't use very fine textured Rava, roast this in a non-stick pan without oil until golden, cool it),
2 cups Buttermilk (mix 1 cup Yogurt and 1 cup water, beat well), add enough salt to taste and 1/4 tsp Baking soda. (You can add chopped cooked or canned Peas, sliced Green beans and grated Carrots to the batter)
For seasoning:
Heat 1 tbsp ghee, add 1/2 tsp Mustard seeds, 1 tsp Cumin seeds, 2 tsp Urad dal and 2 tsp Chana dal, 3 tbsp broken Cashewnuts, let the dals turn little golden. Add 1 tsp finely chopped Green Chillies or 1/4 tsp red chilli flakes, 11/2" finely chopped ginger, few curry leaves, finely chopped and 2 tbsp Cilantro, finely chopped. Stir for a minute until the Cilantro wilts. Take off the heat and cool it.
Mix cooled seasoning into beaten Yogurt, salt and baking soda, mix well. Add the cooled Semolina to Yogurt and mix well until you get a smooth batter. Cover and rest the batter for 10-15mins.
To Steam:
1. Add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of batter to two cereal bowls, keep them aside. Add 3" of water inside the pressure cooker, place the stand (which comes with pressure cooker) on the bottom, let it boil.
2. Place in a bowl carefully on the stand or grill, place few wooden chopsticks across the bowl and place another bowl on top of first one.
3. Cover with the lid and steam for 15mins on high heat without weight. Turn off the heat, take the bowls out carefully and invert them after few seconds of cooling. Serve hot.
Potato-Carrot Kurma:
You need to:
Cook 1 cup whole Baby Carrots, salt and 2 cups of 2" peeled and cubed Potatoes with some water in the microwave until almost done and keep it aside.(can add more vegs if you like)
Dry roast until reddish and grind these spices with few tbsp of water:
1 tbsp Poppy seeds, 1 tbsp Coriander seeds, 2 tsp Chana dal, 2 tbsp dry coconut, few dry red chillies, 2 cloves and 1" Cinnamon (Indian Cassia Bark/chakke).
For seasoning:
1 tsbp oil, 1 tsp Mustard seeds, pinch of Hing and few curry leaves (optional), 1tbsp ground or grated ginger. 1/4 cup Tomato sauce.
Garnish: with finely chopped Cilantro.

To make Kurma:
1. Heat oil and add mustard seeds, hing, curry leaves, let it splutter. Add ground ginger, stir for a while and then add tomato sauce, fry until oil shows up on top. Add ground wet masala/spices, stir fry for a minute.
2. Add cooked Carrots and Potatoes with it's water, boil, and simmer until they are cooked but not very soft and most water is gone and sauce is thicker.
3. Adjust the salt and chilli pd if needed. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with Rava idlis.

Peanut Chutney:
For chutney:
1. Heat a pan, roast 1/2 cup Peanuts until crisp. Take them out and cool them. Add 1/4 cup grated coconut, roast them until slightly golden. Take it out.
2. Add few dry red chillies, 1 tsp Cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp Coriander seeds, stir fry for few mins. Cool.
3. Add all the above to a mixie bowl along with 1" chopped ginger, 1/2 tsp tamarind paste, few tender Cilantro stems and enough salt.
4. Grind to a smooth paste with minimum of water added. Take out in a bowl.
5. Heat 2 tsp oil, add 1 tsp mustard seeds. When they splutter, take off the heat and cool. Add to chutney and mix.
Flax seeds Chutney Powder:
I have heard that Flax seeds are one of the super foods and I have seen some Indian bloggers making the chutney powder with Flax seeds. I read that eating whole Flax seeds do not help you because they are hard to digest. You have to powder the Flax seeds to aid digestion and advised not to use more than 1-2 tbsps a day since too much of intake of these seeds in a day causes stomach upset. Like everything in life moderation helps!
I found a big pack of Flax seeds in our usual grocery store last week, so I thought of making some chutney powder in a similar (but not the same, no coconut added to this) way my mother makes Chana dal and Urad dal chutney pudi but added roasted Flax seeds. Turned very well and I use chutney pudi with Chapatis or rice topped with some ghee. Tastes wonderful.

To make flax seed chutney powder:
1. Dry roast 1 cup of Flax seeds until they splutter slightly. Don't roast too much, it will taste bitter. Take them out on a paper, cool.
2. To the same pan, add 2 tbsp Chana dal, 1 tsp Cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp Coriander seeds, few (or as many you like) dry red chillies, few black pepper corns, dry until reddish. Cool.
3. Add all this to a mixie with salt, pinch of Hing, 1 tsp dry Garlic powder, 1 tsp Tamarind powder (if you have it) or roast a piece of lumpy Tamarind until crisp, cool, add it and powder.
4. Spread on a paper towel, cool the chutney powder completely before storing it in a bottle with tight lid. I keep it in the fridge, lasts longer as Seeds get rancid quickly at room temperature.
Make it spicy, tastes wonderful and good for you too.

Flax seed chutney powder in layered Parathas:

I also experimented by adding 1 tbsp of Flax seed chutney pd to make layered Parathas. See the link to see how to roll out triangular Parathas. You sprinkle the chutney pudi in between layer as you fold the layered Parathas and cook them as usual.

Here is how to make layered triangular Parathas.
Roll out the dough to a circle, brush some oil or ghee on top and sprinkle 1 1/2 tsp of chutney pudi, fold the Paratha into half. Brush with ghee or oil again, sprinkle 1 1/2 tsp of Chutney pudi and fold again to a triangle and roll out again. Heat a griddle and cook Parathas on both sides and serve hot.
Movies I watched last week:

"The Hurt Locker":
A very realistic movie about US Army Bomb sqaud who are detonating or disarming the bombs on the streets of Iraq on a daily basis. It scares you and makes you understand (although it's a fictional movie) what and how these soldiers go thru' everyday there. The fear, insecurity, bravery and heartaches of those soldiers are so palpable, always looking over their shoulders for some enemy attack is unfathomable for most of us. For some of them, even when they go home after they serve their term just can't deal with family life because they are so used to the adrenaline rush of being in the middle of a war. Even I was thinking "Hey, go back to war, you are better off there!". In the end , the main character of this movie walks off of a Army Helicopter smiling to serve another term of war!
War is always a sad thing but it also makes you grateful for these soldiers who put themselves between us and the enemy so that we can stay home safe while they take care of this harsh and dangerous, sometimes necessary business called war.

"The Book of Eli":
Visually stunning movie, a bit religious for me but I liked the movie. It's a story of what happens 30 years after the Apocalypse or "The last war" and few who survived the war were fighting to survive in chaos. One man called Eli has "The book" and walks across the country (USA) to the West trying to protect the sacred book which is supposed to save the humanity. Yes, it's a British guy who welcomes him at the Alcatraz, prints out the book which was retold by Eli's memory and stores it in a shelf along with other holy books but I didn't see the "Gita" among the books, where is it?! And does it always have to be a British guy who saves us all from every situation? ;D
Moreover the reason why I went to see this movie is because I LOVE Denzel Washington, a very handsome (still!) old guy and a great actor. I had to drag my family members to watch this movie but I did it! :P

"Paranormal activity" and "The Final Destination" are the other two movies I watched last week but I wouldn't recommend them particularly unless you are a fan of such genre of movies. I do like horror/scary/thriller movies!

I didn't have much time to read books for the past few days. I am yet to read the Kindle edition of Reader's Digest, will try and do it today.

Have a great rest of the week, see you all next Wednesday. I am planning to bake a bread for next week but don't know it will happen, will see! :)

January 13, 2010

My Summer Harvest 2009 with Ridge Gourd Masala and Ridge Gourd Chutney

Happy Sankranthi/Shankranthi/Pongal to all of you
Sweet beginning:
I made these with 2 Gits Gulab Jamun mix packs (funny ad) following the instructions. I never tried making Jamuns with scratch (with flour, sugar and milk powder etc) at home so far, may be one day I will try! My kids love these oval shaped Jamuns. I make less syrup with lot less sugar than required as we don't like the syrup too sweet and without any extra garnish. Jamuns soak up all the syrup and plump up. Usually round Jamuns are served in a katori/bowl floating in Syrup, sometimes garnished with Cardamom pd, grated coconut etc but we love it simple. Just pick each one up with a fork, gobble the whole Jamun is the way to go ie if I make them smaller!! :D

as some of you know, I started posting my Summer veggie patch from my backyard every August/September since 2006 . I take photos of them as I plant, sow the veg. seeds and I take photos of their progress through out the Summer. Usually we pull out all the plants and clean up for the Fall every year around September/October once the temp starts to go south.
Because I didn't blog since last July, here is my belated post of 2009 Summer garden post. I didn't buy any new Indian veg. seeds last year, used whatever I had leftover from the year before. Indian vegetable seeds are available here & here and here (for Curry leaves plants) and here for Asian vegetables to order if you are interested in planting the garden this Summer.

Here is the beginning with prepared veggie patch: (click on the pics to enlarge)
I start planting the little store bought plants at the end of May and sow the seeds only after mid June ie after the ground heats up a little to help the seeds to sprout. Some herb pots survived from last year re grew nicely like Mint, Chives, Balm Lemon and Rosemary. I bought more herbs to plant like Thyme, Thai Basil, Oregano, Garlic Chives etc.

In July and August:
You can see Japanese purple Eggplants, Okra, Cherry Tomatoes, Zucchinis, Broad Beans (sweet peas pods), Plum Tomatoes and of course, my pride and joy, Indian Ridge Gourds grown from seeds. Just 2 healthy ridge gourd plants which occupied half the deck gave me so many Ridge gourds that I went crazy cooking with them every other day which made my kids very mad and they now have a second new "kill that darn vegetable plant" plan right after my beloved Eggplants! Hahaha!!!

Indian Snake gourd (Padavala kayi), Cayenne chillies, Bottle Gourd, Prickly seedless Cucumber (Mullu Soutekayi), Amaranth leaves and more Ridge Gourds!! Unfortunately, I didn't get many Snake gourds until almost August and that too just two puny little things, I will post what I cooked with those later. Don't know why but I am finding it hard to grow Snake Gourds unlike other gourds. Cayenne peppers are beautiful to look at and get aplenty but not much heat or flavor. I prefer to grow Thai chillies or Tabasco chillies like I did last year. Those little ones are fiery and also I don't need too many of those to add to dishes to make it deliciously flavorful. I freeze Thai chillies for Winter to use to make chutneys.

September, time to clean up already!!
At this time of the month, my kids are literally tearing their hair out just looking at my collection of veggies because they know what's coming for dinner for days from now on until they are all gone and I am grinning from from ear to ear! :D
Did you see the identical conjoined twin Cayenne pepper brothers/sisters in the last photo?

Luxuriously grown Curry leaves plant:
Plant grows to up a tree in India and in Florida (because of the hot weather all year round) if planted this in the ground, so such luck for the rest of us in other states. (Here is a good YouTube video to watch)
It was a blazing Summer for us in NC this year. So this former 5" Curry leaf plant I potted last year has grown up to a 5 feet now! As soon as the temp. went up to 70F, we put the pot out on the deck. Now as the Fall temp dropped, it's inside the kitchen, still exposed to Sunlight but with minimum of 68F. I clipped off the top by about 5" to get the plant bushy and I am also using the bottom branches for cooking but very sparingly. We might have to re-pot the plant to a larger container next Spring. You can see the same curry leaves plant as it was last year, here.
Here is some info about how to grow and maintain Curry leaves plant. I read that USDA has banned or restricted all curry leaves plants in US! We used to get these little plants in Indian stores and from the (linked sites above) nurseries where I buy the Indian vegetable seeds.

Ridge Gourd Masala (Heerekayi palya) and spicy Ridge Gourd Chutney with my home grown Ridge Gourds, curry leaves, Tomatoes and cayenne red chilli peppers:

Ridge Gourd masala/Heerekayi palya:
Here is tasty Ridge Gourd dish to go with Dosas, Rice rottis or Chapatis. Palya is a Kannada word used generally for a semi dry masala dish with thick gravy and sometimes for dry dish as in potato masala we make for stuffing the Masala dosa.

You need:
3 or 4 fresh tender Ridge gourds (peel the ridges off with a peeler, wash and chop the veg into 1" cubes), 1/2 tsp Turmeric, enough salt, 1 Tomato chopped (I used 4 cherry tomatoes I grew), 1/4 tsp Tamarind paste, chopped Cilantro for garnish and 1 tsp ghee. Dry roast and powder these masala:
1 tbsp coriander seeds, 1/2 tsp Cumin seeds, 1 tbsp dry coconut, 2 tsp Chana dal (Bengal gram), 2-3 dry red chillies, 2 cloves and 1 tsp raw rice (to thicken the sauce).
2 tsp oil, 1 tsp Mustard seeds,
few curry leaves, pinches of Hing (asafoetida), 1 onion, chopped,.

To make the dish:
1. Heat oil in a big kadai and add mustard seeds, curry leaves, hing and add onion, saute until they are soft.
2. Add Turmeric, tomato, little salt, fry for 3 mins. Add all the Ridge gourd pieces, fry for 3 mins.
Add 1/4 cup water, cover the dish, lower the heat and cook for about 5 mins or until vegs are almost cooked.
3. Add tamarind paste and powdered masala, enough salt. Stir and cook for a while. Add more water only if needed since Rodge gourds have lot of water in them if they are fresh.
4. Adjust the spices, add cilantro and ghee, cook until you get thick sauce. Tastes better the next day. Serve hot with any of the bread I mentioned above.

Roasted Ridge Gourd and coconut Chutney:

I love this spicy chutney with rice rottis or you can it with plain rice topped with little ghee as well. It's a simple but tasty chutney I came up with this dish based on regular veg stir fry but made into a chutney. When you have about 7 to 8 Ridge gourds at the same time, you just have to get creative with recipes and cook multiple dishes with the same veggie!! Here is another one.

You need:
1. Peel the Ridges off of the 2-3 gourds, cut into cubes. Slice a few fresh green or ripe red chillies, 1/4 cup cubed fresh coconut.
2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan, add 1 tsp Coriander seeds, 1/2 tsp Cumin seeds, 1 tbsp Chana dal, stir for few seconds. Then add few curry leaves, 3 tbsp Cilantro leaves or 1 tbsp tender Cilantro stems, sliced chillies, coconut pieces, saute for 2 more mins until they get some reddish color.
3. Add Ridge gourd pieces, some salt, saute until gourd is soft and cooked dry. Do not cover to cook it but keep stirring until it's soft and all the water evaporates. Take off the heat.
4. Let it cool a little. Add everything to a blender with 1/4 tsp tamarind paste, some salt if needed. Grind these to a smooth paste. Try not to add water if possible. Take out in a bowl.
Season with 2 tsp oil, add 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp Urad dal, 1-2 dry red chillies and more curry leaves if you like it, let it splutter. Add to the chutney and mix to serve.
Chicken curry with Yogurt;
from "Daily Musings" blog. Thanks for the delicious recipe Indo, loved it!

My kids love any dish with chicken. My daughter went back to college last Sunday for second semester of freshman class. As soon as I saw this recipe in Indo's blog last week, I thought I will make it for them before she left (had to make it with just some paprika for heat for kids without any green chillies in this dish although I know it tastes lot better with fresh green chillies added). We relished it of course with some plain rice and few Naans!

I rented a animated movie called "Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs" which was really funny and enjoyable. Usually I prefer not to watch kids movies but after watching "Up", I am slowly warming up to the idea! :D
Another movie I watched and forgot to mention last week was "Men who stare at the Goats" which was hilarious. Highly recommend it to watch.

Btw, I bought a Kindle 2 reader from Amazon, loving it and it's so easy on the eyes to read books now and also kindle edition books are cheaper to buy and instant download too. But some books are collectible like these 2 below, so I still buy a few for my book collection. I downloaded all 4 books of "Twilight" series on Kindle though, even saw first 2 Twilight movies!! Beautiful romantic story, which girl doesn't want to be loved, adored and fought over by a Vampire and a Werewolf?! HeHe!! I can dream, can't I?

I read "Push" by Sapphire few months ago, which is made into a movie "Precious" now (which I love to see). Book is about incest and a young girl's struggle to survive. Book is shockingly disturbing to read but it IS "life" for some girls in this senseless cruel World with no support or choice. Makes you appreciate your own carefree childhood and teenage years!!
When we were kids getting spanked on our backsides occasionally by our parents was a "real big tragedy" for some of us. We all should read this book if we really want to know what "real tragedy" is!!

Another book I read from Oprah's book club "Say you're one of them" by Uwem Akpan.
More heart breaking stories about lives of kids in Africa but wonderfully written which includes 5 short stories. I would say read both of them if you can take it but be warned! You don't wanna make yourself sad, get a headache and cry the whole day!

Okay, that's a long post (as usual!) for this week. No idea what I am going post for next week at all. Seems like my brain has frozen too these days along with icy cold weather!! Anyways, Y'all have a great rest of the week and have fun! :))

January 06, 2010

Welcoming 2010 with a Cypriot Olive, onion and herb bread and Sweet Potato baked "Fries" with spicy Mayonnaise dip

Hello everyone!!
Hope you all had a wonderful Shivaratri, Diwali, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Eid and New Year celebrations. Yes I know, can't believe myself that I have been gone that long!!
Well... I am back to blogging in good spirits, new positivity and hope. I appreciate all your support during my long absence and thanks for all your emails, comments enquiring about my safety, well being, for missing me and asking me to return to blogging. Better late than never, so here I am.

Here is my belated new year toast to all of you. Have a very happy, prosperous and healthy 2010. Be positive, surround yourself with good things in life, keep all the toxic people out and smile more. Cherish your families and friends. Cheers!! :)

Here is a healthy tasty savory bread I baked to start the New Year after many many months of not baking anything at all and also for Thanksgiving, I had bought some Sweet Potatoes. I thought I would try baking some fries instead of deep frying to serve with a spicy hot sauce Mayo dip. They came very good, tasty sweetish fries with spicy dip for appetizer or just to snack on.

Cypriot Olive,onion and herb bread:
Source for this bread recipe is "100 Great Breads" by Paul Hollywood, with my own modifications since some ingredients are in grams in this book and he used 30gms of fresh yeast instead of dry Yeast. I had to make some adjustments in the recipe to suit me.

You need: (Makes 1 big loaf or two smaller loaves)
1 1/2 packages of dry active Yeast (or about 1 1/4 tbsp),
1 1/4 cup water, (you may or may not need all the water)
1 tsp sugar,

3 1/2 to 4 cups white bread flour,
(you can mix white and whole wheat bread flour),
1 tsp salt,
2 tbsp Olive oil,

1/2 to 3/4 cup drained well and pitted, roughly chopped black Greek Olives,
(Kalamata or any kind of Olives you like),
4 tbsp chopped white sweet onion,
2-3 tbsp fresh mixed herbs or 1 tsp crushed dry mixed herbs,
(Author used 4 tbsp chopped Cilantro but I used fresh Basil and Parsley from my herb pots).
Mix the Olives, onion and herbs and divide into two portions. Keep aside.

To bake this bread:
1. Add yeast to 1/4 cup of warm water with sugar and let it foam for 10mins in a stand mixer bowl or any big bowl you are using to knead the bread.
2. Sift 3 1/2 cups of flour, salt and add oil. Mix well. Add Yeast mixture to it and remaining 1 cup water gradually as needed and use the kneader hook for 4 mins to knead or knead the dough well by hand until soft and pliable.
3. Add 1/2 cup of remaining flour only if needed to make a soft dough. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces, cover the bowl and leave it to rest for an hour in a warm place.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

4. Mix the herbs, Olives and onions, divide into 2 portions. Add each portion to each piece of dough and knead to mix well. Shape into rounds. I made one big oval shaped loaf instead of two. Place both pieces of round dough on the Parchment paper on the baking sheet.
5. Sprinkle the top lightly with some flour (optional) and cut a "X" on loaves to release the steam when baking or slash the bread across 1/4" deep as you see in the picture. Cover with a clean cloth and leave to rise again for 45 mins.

Preheat the Oven to 400F.

6. Bake the loaves for 30 to 40 mins or until baked golden and sounds hollow when tapped the bottom of the bread. Don't bake too long.
7. Let it cool completely on a rack before you store in a plastic bag like Gallon size Zip-lock bag.

Serve the toasted slices with soup or with cream cheese or with hummus. You can also serve the slices with grilled meats, Greek style Yogurt salad like Tzatziki. Enjoy.

Baked sweet Potato fries with spicy Mayo dip:
I baked these for Thanksgiving day. Deep frying the sweet Potatoes probably make them tastier, crispier and yummy I am sure. But I baked this time. Sweetish salty fries with spicy and tangy Mayonnaise dip go very well together. Enjoy.

You need:
2 Sweet potatoes, narrow and oval shaped would be good to make finger chips,
Enough salt to sprinkle. Coarse black pepper powder (optional).

To bake:

Preheat the oven to 400F

1. Wash the sweet Potatoes and dry them. No need to peel the skin unless you want to. Cut into 3 to 4" finger chips, about 1/2 " to 1" thick. Better to make them same length and thickness to bake them uniformly.
2. Layer them on a thick non-stick baking sheet, spray little Canola oil on top or mix the finger chips or fries with oil in a bowl and then layer on the sheet.
3. Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 mins or until fries are golden, cooked thoroughly and crispy. Oven time differs, so use your judgment to cook them.
4. When they are done, spread them on a cooling rack to cool them a little and sprinkle with salt and pepper to your taste.
5. Serve with spicy Mayo dip while they are still warm.

Spicy and Tangy Mayo:
1. Take 3/4 cup Hellman's Mayonnaise (light Mayo is okay too but I prefer the regular Mayo) in a bowl, add 2 tsp Sour cream, 1 tsp or more of Sri Racha hot sauce or any hot sauce you like.
2. Sprinkle 1-2 tsp of any fresh herbs you like or 1/2 tsp of Italian dry herbs, salt and pepper as need it. Some minced white sweet onion can be added too for crunch but optional. Mix well and serve as a dip with baked fries.

That's it! Beautiful to look at and very tasty appetizer or snack to serve.

My thanks to my dearest friends!!
Sometimes life kicks you from your peaceful, happy slumber to wake you up to smell the "coffee" as they say. After you deal with the reality, in most situations, these experiences will help you change your life hopefully for the better, to make you appreciate more of what you have, realize who your true friends and well wishers really are and to find yourself again in the process even though I do not wish to repeat the last six months of 2009 ever again. Life will never be the same as before for me but I am sure it will be different in a good way. I hope, pray and wish that 2010 will be fabulous for all of us!

Here is a quote I like the most:

"A woman is like a tea bag- you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water" by Eleanor Roosevelt. Here are more of them from this lady.
I had few rough months last year since July (personal, nothing to do with blogging or any blogger), took me a while to deal with all that and recover in one piece. Some of my blogger friends (you know who you all are, I am not listing your names here for privacy reasons), my dearest friends from India, my family helped me a lot during this tough time with their advice and absolute support without judgment. I really do appreciate everything you did for me and a HUGE thank you from me to all of you. I feel privileged to have you as friends in my life.

Blogging/Blog surfing:
Since I am cooking just for two most of the time these days, I won't be cooking specially for any blog events except for very few ie only if I already have any dish to post for my blogs suitable your events. Event hosts, don't take it personally please. I don't feel like cooking just for events or even blogging that much anymore, trying to cut down cooking a lot these days too.
I am also not going to blog surf a lot everyday and will not publish any negative, rude comments either, will try to keep blogs clean and positive. I will come and say hello to you whenever I see your names/blog profiles here in my blogs. I don't think I can handle surfing 200+ blogs I have listed in my reader on a daily basis, best to avoid myself getting a "carpal tunnel syndrome", seriously!! :D

I recommend these movies I loved:
"Julie and Julia", Walt Disney's "Up", "Avatar", "Sherlock Holmes" and "Nine". I liked "Nine" specially.

Have a great day, see you all next week. I still have to post my 2009 Summer garden pics!