Friday, February 22, 2013

Tofu Tikka!

Paneer is one of my favorite dishes although eating all the paneer butter masala from USA has made me hate it so much! Every potluck, every restaurant, every dinner always has one paneer dish as it is very easy to prepare and is always a winner as most people love it. Probably because of the fact that I was having more and more of it, that I started to stay more and more away from it. I buy Tofu, instead, which looks similar but god forbid! doesn't taste similar and also coz it's healthier. So I wanted to try to make a tikka out of the tofu this time and so went ahead with the experiment. I cleaned and pressed extra firm tofu to remove all water and cut them into big chunks. I sliced half way down the tofu and put some coriander thovayal(Cilantro quarter of a bunch  cut and slightly sauteed in about 1/4 tsp oil pureed with 2-3 dried red chillies also sauteed and salt to taste.) in it. Then I added in a separate plate some turmeric powder, chilly powder, amchur powder, ginger garlic paste, garam masala and oil and mixed well. I then carefully put the tofu one by one in this mixture and coated it as good as possible and refrigerated for around 2 hours. Then back from refrigerator, into a hot tava with a few teaspoons of oil. I made sure they were well cooked on all four sides from the tava till they all got a nice brown coat on them. A pack of extra firm tofu yielded around 10 cubes of tofu and me and DH had five each. I forgot to take the picture and it was finished too soon! Was very filling as I was unable to finish my dinner after eating the 5 pieces. Next time, should marinate with some yogurt/lemon and also add vegetables - onions, tomatoes, peppers to make it much more interesting in presentation and also take pictures. So here are just the pictures from my prep.

 As you can see, the tofu is a bit more crumbly than a paneer would be, but in the end, it did hold well on the tava as I waited till they were done on each side before turning over so that gave a little bit of firmness to tofu as it got done on the tava.Sorry that there are no pictures of the final result, but I am going to do them once again just for the sake of the pictures!

Verdict: A fulfilling snack - protein rich - add along with vegetables and it is great food! Kids can have this itself as a lunch in their boxes along with vegetables. But remember, don't expect paneer tikka - tofu tastes different!

Hummus No Ways!!!

Don't get me wrong. I absolutely love hummus and I am not sure whether it is with tahini or not as these are from hummus that I have ate at food courts and restaurants. Well, I know what the basic ingredients are, how to mash it up in a food processor and of course, I had all ingredients plus a bunch of carrots and celery that DH bought to use. So, I mused, I'm making up hummus to eat these vegetables...And because I did not have tahini in stock, borrowed a  recipe from online - here!
        No big deal, just rinse well your can of chick peas, add some salt (remember canned peas already has enough!), two garlic pods as mentioned in the recipe, 1/4 cup olive oil, and chilly flakes (My own addition for heat!)  Blended it all to a super cool mushy hummus and here it is!

Verdict: Loved the textured, but I did not like this hummus at all. Zilch. For me the 2 pods of garlic was very overpowering that it caught in my throat. It has been a week and I gave it to DH for lunch but am not eating it. I guess it will go to trash in another few days :(

Mista Pasta

Pasta, is a comfort food for me to cook for my 1yo when I am out of options. This is because I always will have some vegetable in fridge/freezer, pasta is always in stock, as also milk, tomatoes, and some italian seasonings. This is one of my favorite dinner meals for my lil one. I do not like the marinara as I come from South India and if it is not hot - hot enough for you to sniffle and have a few tears down your cheeks, then the food is not really worthwhile ;) However, cheese is an acquired taste for us desis who grew up without it in India and so can eat it bland. This is why I would easily make a white sauce instead of marinara for my ds. Here is my usual routine for him for pasta.
  1. Cook pasta, al dente. Strain and keep aside.
  2.  Microwave, steam, stir-fry, or grill vegetables
  3. Make white sauce, and stir everything in it.
This takes utmost 8-10 minutes especially when you can do each in different stoves. 

For white sauce, I don't follow any particular recipe. I just put a pat of butter on a pan in medium high and once the butter melts add about a teaspoon of flour and just fry the flour for a minute or two and before it browns, add milk to it. I usually add the whole milk as that is what I give my 1yo. I probably would add around 1/4 or 1/3 cup of milk and then simmer till the sauce thickens. Once it is to my desired consistency, I add salt, a few dashes of pepper, mix well and then put the strained pasta as well as the veggies and voila I have a one dish wonder for my 1yo. Of course, I make enough so me and my DH can eat a few teaspoons! Non-guilty pleasures :)

Pasta with bechamel sauce
Pasta with white sauce and zucchini
Verdict: My 1 yo absolutely loves this pasta and so does DH!

Valentine's Day Special - chocolate cake and cupcake

I was to have the company of my nephew and niece on V-day but it turned out they couldn't make it until Saturday and I had already thought of making them yummy cakes/cupcakes to enjoy their time with their aunt and I also wanted to do some pastry puffs for savory. As you already know, I am no baker and so bought the "Betty Crocker super-moist chocolate cake" mix and set up to work on it. I just followed the instructions down to the 't' and the cake couldn't have been better. The recipe called for a 9X13 pan. All I had was a 7X11 pan so added some in it and made 6 extra cup-cakes also for the little ones aged 9,7,and 1. And, what is a cupcake without icing?? I actually checked the internet to get a chocolate icing recipe and whisked it to finish as I do not have any of the electric beaters. Not a bad deal, is what I think. I took the recipe for chocolate icing from here. The recipe is as follows:

Chocolate buttercream frosting


  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks or 1/2 pound), softened ( Do not melt in microwave. Keep it outside the refrigerator and smash it down with your beater once it is soft ;))
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract(optional)
  • 4 tablespoons milk or cream


  1. Prepare the dry and wet ingredients separately until ready to mix.
  2. Sift together the sugar, cocoa powder. Add salt and keep it separate.
  3. In a separate big bowl, add the butter and mash till it is creamy. I use a whisk and so mashed it up to a softer butter. If using electric mixer, probably use a low to medium setting to mash it up. 
  4. Add all the dry ingredients to the bowl. If using a stand mixer, I will assume that you have the mixer off, unless you want your dry ingredients all over you and all around ;) If using an electric mixer, turn to lowest setting and slowly incorporate the dry ingredients with butter. With a whisk I had to do slowly to first mix and then start mixing up vigorously to incorporate the two. It will look a lot like crumbs but that is right.
  5. Add the vanilla extract, and the milk/cream and incorporate. Now as you mix, you will begin to see that you get the proper frosting. Once whisked well and you take the whisk, you will find the icing sticking out. For a stickier icing, add more sugar. For a thinner icing, add more milk. Do this till you are satisfied with the icing consistency. 

 Verdict: The icing I did not realize then, was thin and so you can see how the cupcake icing kind of sagged, fell, and did not hold shape while I was able to clearly write well with it on my cake . This was my first time at making a cake, and icing so I am not unhappy. It was a successful effort and who cares about the decor when the cake, cupcake and frosting was yummelicious ;) The kids and adults all had a good treat!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Banana Blueberry muffin trial attempt!

Okay here I had a DS - 18 months old-who just loves bananas, two beyond recognizable over-ripened bananas with almost a black skin exterior dangling on their hooks and him wailing for them. My immediate reaction was to toss them out in the trashcan as I always used to do but somehow in the past one week saw too many people mushing up bananas into bread and muffins that i thought, hmmm, time for me to start baking as well! So i search online for some recipes as I have never baked myself (of course, i tried my hand at an easy brownie some 2 years ago and my DH made me promise that I will quit baking!) and after an extensive search found this one link from that will just use 2 bananas, exactly two as that is all I have.
        I wanted to make chocolate cupcake for Valentine's day and so had armed myself with a big mixing bowl, two big packages of baking and icing essentials boxes that I had got from a discount store (mind you, I was not planning to shell out hard earned $$$ at state of the art equipment to bake, when I wasn't sure I would love it and continue doing it.) and left it safely in the garage to bring it when and if I baked. I had also got the usual baking powder, baking soda, all purpose flour from a grocery store so that I can bake when I need to. I ended by though, having to go back to the grocery store as I had ended up buying not the usual baking soda but something you keep in the fridge and throw away and I was not planning to puncture holes in this one to use the soda.So went and got myself the baking soda, and some buttermilk in case the recipes called for something of that sort.
        The recipe made 12 muffins and I thought I could live with that. I could eat it, if it came out good, and would trash it if it was horrible. So went ahead and took one 7-cup round pyrex and started mashing up my bananas and when trying to add sugar found that I had only a 1/4" less of sugar than the desired amount. The recipe called for brown sugar and since I had only white sugar substituted that but had only about 3/4th cup and so used that as I reasoned with myself that white sugar was more sugary and hence a 3/4 cup is enough. Then on to butter and I find myself staring at one 1/4 stick of butter and around 2T of butter. I told myself that I dint want to experiment with half butter when I already had done enough with the sugar and decided to take another trip to the grocery store. Did so and came back with confectioners sugar, regular sugar, 2 butter blocks, and another big bag of flour.
        So mashed up the 2 bananas, 2 eggs, 3/4th cup of sugar and got a nice gooey stuff that I was scared to lick. I was supposed to add melted butter. I had left one stick of butter out as I went to grocery store to get it at room temperature but ended up adding that another stick onto the microwave for 30secs to melt. Adding that to the gooey mixture got me into some not-so-good-looking mess(I was sure of that!)as the butter did not blend well and looked like curdled milk that stands out on top of the milk. I just closed my eyes at this point and added some vanilla and very little fresh blueberries - around 10 of them as I dint want to end up wasting blueberries in case the muffin turned out bad. I then found out that the recipe called for a bigger bowl to mix all dry ingredients and realized I had taken the big 7-cup round pyrex for the bananas when according to the recipe it called only for a medium bowl to mix them. Hating myself, I took another 7-cup round pyrex(We need to thank God, don't we for he had foreseen this day and made me get two 7-cup rounds?) bowl and whisked the baking powder, flour and salt (I had no cinnamon powder and so just left it.) Now added the banana mixture onto the baking powder mixture and realized that the contents filled up and I wasn't able to whisk. At this time, I was ready to dump the whole mixture out so just left it around and went ahead and fed my DS with his dinner and played with him and made dinner for all of us and then I had this lightbulb moment when I remembered that not just the icing and baking essentials but I had also bought a big bowl for mixing and there out in a flash I was to the garage with the most prized possession of the day- a VERY large bowl indeed. I transferred all the contents onto this bowl (after I washed it with hot soapy water and towel dried it as it was new.) and whisked them away. Now they all seemed to blend well and I got courageous enough to take a bit and lick it! Yum. Yum it was and I was so happy, and thrilled. Thanked God, that I did not pour the mixture down the drain and so took the muffin tray and lined them up with cupcake liners and added a scoop onto each of the liners using a ice cream scoop. Of course, I wasted one liner and scoop when the scoop managed to fall down a little on the liner and more on the tray! Trashed them both!
        So off went the tray to the preheated oven and I turned on the light and set the timer for 25 minutes. At the 25th minute mark, I put a wooden skewer and found that it came out clean, but the top wasn't browned and I kept it another 5 minutes to brown the top. Also, I dumped the remainder of the mixture onto a small loaf pan because I did not want to waste the oven's heat for another 25 minutes by doing more muffins as I had only that one six-muffin tray. I saw the muffins and the loaf split a bit, but that was okay I re-assured. And after 5 more minutes of browning after the 30 min mark took them out.

Verdict: First the pictures, then the verdict.
 As you can see that I did get the brown effect, though, along with it a taste as if it was a biscuit not a muffin. Although, I am not sure how muffins taste, as I have not tasted that many in my life. My foray into baking is also only because I started eating eggs which is around three years back but the muffin was sweet and good on the inside. Not much sweet perhaps because I ended up with 1/4 cup less sugar than the recipe, but all in all was pleased by the result. Nothing was sticking on the pan or the liner or causing trouble when we ate and neither were there any repercussions in the morning! So i can say it was a successful attempt.

However, on an ending note, I would like to add this: Do not, let me underline to emphasize. Do not take up this task of using up old bananas unless you have ever hungry kids, or you love to bake, or you have all the time in the world! It took me another half an hour to hand-wash(yes! the labels said do not dish wash the pans) the trays and the bowls as my dishwasher was already too full to accommodate another 3 bowls. In the end, it got me into thinking how nice it would have been if I had just tossed them in the trash before another thought had killed that thought as I stretched myself and went to bed!
P.S. Me, DH, and DS all three had a banana muffin/bread breakfast this morning and I am happy I baked. Guess I will continue to bake, after all :)