We had a fun filled week-end enjoying the mid-summer weather. Work has been really stressing me out last few months so you see these few and far between posts. Past week-end though I decided to shut down my laptop and enjoy bit of summer weather. The best way of destressing for me is to by cooking and taking the kids to the park. It was such a joy to see them run around the ducks. This is such wonderful age for them and I am loving every moment of it.
Cooking on the week-end is a completely different ball game than cooking on week-days. I can try new recipes and put on the dishwasher as many times as I want. If a recipe fails, I usually have enough time to make something else so everyone is fed. This week-end I got some glorious Organic Blueberries from the store. I actually went a bit overboard and got too many. So the menu for the week-end was planned around Blueberries. I made Blueberry tart as dessert for dinner and Blueberry Corn salad for lunch the next day.
There are so many versions of the Blueberry Tart but most use Honey as a sweetener. I am not very fond of the combination of Honey and Lemon. It reminds of the early morning Lemon and Honey drink and I didn’t want anything to do with that taste for dessert so I used Maple Syrup. I have bunch of Lavender growing in the backyard so I used that too.
If you do not have Fresh Lavender flowers but have Lavender extract, that would really well in this.
For the main course I made Chickpea Schwarma Wraps that actually turned out exceptionally well and so easy to make. I used ready-made Tortilla but if you want to go even healthier and use freshly made Roti, go for it. As long as you have a Can of Chickpeas and few minutes to spare, you are all set for lunch or dinner with these wraps.
- Frozen Puff Pastry sheet 1
- Ricotta Cheese 1/4 cup
- Cream Cheese ¼ cup
- Maple Syrup 5 Tbsp
- Heavy Cream 2 Tbsp
- Lemon zest ½ tsp
- Lemon Juice 1 tsp
- Blueberries 1 box or more
- Egg beaten (optional)
- Thaw the Puff pastry as per directions on the package.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Brush the beaten egg on all 4 sides of the pastry only on the outer 1 inch.
- Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or per package instructions.
- While the pastry is baking, in a separate bowl, mix the cheeses, Maple Syrup, Lemon Juice, Lemon zest. Add Heavy cream to make it smooth consistency.
- Once the pastry sheet is baked, take it out on a cooling rack.
- Once cooled, spread the cheese mixture on top and in the end, top it with blueberries.
This past week-end we had a wonderful dinner party to celebrate my younger daughter’s birthday. I catered all the food since it was Saturday evening and I didn’t want to pull an all nighter cooking on Friday night. It is summer time here in Chicago, we were all outdoors. The kids had a ton of fun playing in water. The only thing I made was the Cake. A2 has been quite indecisive lately about which characters she likes. One day she likes Peppa Pig and fondly calls me “Mommy Pig” and the next day it’s Little Einstein. I decided to play it safe and made a Rainbow Themed cake. It was actually much simpler to make than some of the other cakes I have made. Total time I spent was about 6 hours or so but I didn’t do all the steps in one go so it was bits and pieces here and there.
For the cake itself, I used the recipe here.
This recipe makes 2 layers. I doubled the recipe and used 3 8 inch pans. This way I got three separate layers from each separate layer. You have to be careful when dividing the batter so all the layers are of equal height. I recommend using a measuring cup instead of eyeballing it.
Prepare 3 pans 8 inch size for baking with Parchment paper and Baking oil spray. Prepare the batter for first batch and color it Orange, Yellow and third one will be the mixture of Blue and Yellow making it Green. If you have Green color separately, that’s very well. Make sure to use enough color so the cakes come out in vibrant colors. Also, remember that cakes will look more vibrant than the batter when they come out of the oven. Bake these cakes as per instructions. Since your cakes are thinner, they will be done about 3 minutes or so before recommended time. Remove the cakes from pans and onto the cooling racks after about 10 minutes out of the oven. Clean the cake pans by wiping them off and prep them again for the next batch. For this batch, I used Blue, Purple and Red colors. Again if you don’t have Purple, you can make it by mixing Red and Blue. You do not need to mix the colors separately and then add. I usually start adding both colors to the cake batter and then adjust by whichever color is needed more.
Although the cake is simple to make, it does need lot of bowls and makes a bit of a mess so do not make it on the day of the party unless like me, that’s the only food item you are making. Once this batch is out of the oven, let it cool. I generally freeze my cakes for at least an hour before I put the crumb coat on. If you are doing the same, wrap each cake separately in plastic wrap tightly and place in the freezer. After an hour, take one cake out of the Freezer and level it. Using a cookie cutter, cut out about 2 inches round from the middle of the cake. Do not cut out the top layer that is the Red color layer. All of them go back in the freezer while you make the Cream Cheese Frosting.
Use caution when you are handling these layers. They are very fragile and could break and you will have one less layer to use. For Cream Cheese Frosting, I used the recipe below. You will need two batches of this recipe. I made one batch and crumb coated the cake. Then next day, made the second batch and coated the cake from outside. When you stack the cake, stack all but the last layer. Fill the inside with M&Ms and then place the Top Red layer. From outside the cake looks very simple. All I did was put plenty of Rainbow colored sprinkles on it.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Cream cheese at room temperature 12 Oz
- Butter at room temperature 1 1/2 cups
- Powdered sugar 5 1/2 cups
- Vanilla extract 1 Tbsp.
- In a stand mixer using paddle attachment, whip the Butter first.
- When it has a good consistency, add vanilla Extract and Cream Cheese.
- Once thoroughly mixed, start adding Powdered Sugar 1/2 cup at a time.
- Be careful as the Sugar will blow up if you suddenly start the mixer at higher speed.
- Run the Mixer at medium speed for at least 5 minutes to let everything mix properly.
- Use on the cake as directed.
Happy Summer Solstice. What else could I be posting today other than a wonderful and filling salad to enjoy on a cool summer night.
- Couscous 1 cup unprepared
- Mango 1 peeled and cut into small pieces
- Red Pepper 1 medium cut into small pieces
- Red onion ½ cut into small pieces
- Green onion 2 branches cut small
- Boiled water to make Couscous
- Salt per taste
- Pepper per taste
For the dressing
- Balsamic Vinegar 3Tbsp
- Olive Oil 2 Tbsp
- Honey 2 Tbsp
- Yellow Mustard 1/2tsp
- Chili flakes (optional)
- Prepare Couscous as per package instructions. Usually you have to boil the water, turn off the heat and add Couscous. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes and separate it out with a fork.
- Mix all the Salad ingredients in a large bowl.
- Mix all Dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk it to mix properly. It is essential that you use very good Balsamic Vinegar. The taste will substantially be different depending on what Vinegar you used.
- Pour the dressing over Salad and mix just before serving.
Summer is finally here. I can say it has arrived when I can drink my morning cup of tea out in the backyard. Since my tea drinking is usually at 5 AM, it doesn’t happen outside unless we are deep in the summer. At the end of Winter months, this is the ritual I truly long for. The quiet of the house, chirping of the birds and rustle of leaves with occasional footsteps of runners that are out on the road even before me. If it’s raining in the morning, I am sad about missing the run but also happy that I get to sit enjoying the sound of raindrops for a few more minutes before the morning hustle begins.
Now that summer is finally here, it’s time to move to lighter desserts. The desserts that don’t weigh you down and make you fall asleep. The desserts that let you enjoy the cool evening breeze and take you late into the night chatting with friends or sometimes just sitting in the quiet of the night looking at fireflies that are abundant around us.
Strawberry Pecan Crumble is just one of these desserts. Its light and can be made and served in individual Ramekins.
- Strawberries 8 oz. box washed, hulled and cut in medium size pieces
- Sugar Granulated 3-4 Tbsp.
- Salt a dash
- Corn Starch 1 Tbsp.
- Vanilla extract 1 tsp.
- All-purpose flour ½ cup
- Almond Meal ½ cup
- Brown sugar 2 -3 Tbsp.
- Pecans roasted and chopped ½ cup
- Butter unsalted room temp 4 Tbsp.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place a parchment paper on a cookie sheet to catch any spills. Don’t worry if don’t have it, you just have to wash your cookie sheet a bit vigorously. A good Arm workout anyway.
- In a bowl, combine Strawberries, Corn Starch, Vanilla and Salt and keep aside.
- Combine the flours, Brown sugar (if adding), Pecans and mix well.
- Add small cubes of Butter and using hands incorporate it into the flour. It should look like this.
- In 6 Ramekins, about 4 to 5 oz. each, divide and place Strawberry mixture equally.
- Top the Strawberry mixture with Flour mixture.
- Bake in the oven for 24 to 26 minutes.
Don’t you get slightly overwhelmed on the week-ends when you make breakfast and lunch then have to take the kids out to the Beach or a Birthday party and then come home and cook dinner? I certainly do. The best thing to do on those days, start something in your slow cooker before stepping out of the house. That way you have at least a portion of the meal ready when you are back. This daal is perfect for the kids. It is full of flavor and not too spicy. When I am back from day’s excursion, all I have to do is make quick rice in pressure cooker and kids are ready to be fed. I can make something more for hubs and me later in the evening.
Sometimes, I delay the start time for the slow cooker and make this for week-night so it’s ready when I am back from office with hungry kids in tow.
- Toor Daal 1 cup
- Goda Masala 1 tsp
- Jaggery 1 tsp
- Mustadr seeds black ½ tsp
- Turmeric powder 1/4 tsp
- Asafoetida 1/8 tsp
- Curry Leaves about 4
- Tamarind concentrate a dash or tamarind piece about 1 inch
- Green chilies 1 large deseeded and cut in small pieces
- Oil/Ghee 1 Tbsp
- Salt per taste
- Water 4 ½ cups
- Grated Coconut 1 Tbsp (optional)
- Coriander leaves for garnish (optional)
- Wash Toor daal 2 -3 times and place it in slow cooker.
- If you are using Instapot, turn on the sauté function and sauté while you prepare tempering.
- In a tempering vessel or any other small container which can handle high heat, heat oil/ghee.
- When oil is hot, add Mustard seeds and Asafetida and wait for 10 seconds while the seeds sputter.
- Add Curry leaves and Turmeric. Remove from heat.
- Add this mixture to the Daal in slow cooker and mix well.
- Add Water, Goda Masala, Jaggery, tamarind, salt and Grated coconut to the Daal.
- Add the water.
- Turn on slow cooker and cook for 3 hours on high setting. Alternatively cook for 5 hours on Low setting.
I made it in 3 hours on high setting.
When ready to serve, garnish with Coriander and Enjoy.
One of my most favorite deserts and also one that I was so afraid to make. I actually kept procrastinating making this desert because I didn’t think I could do it right. Finally, I am glad I tried and it came out most delicious both the times I made it. I did add a bit of Bailey’s Irish cream but if you don’t have it on hand, go ahead and skip it. Just add ½ tsp extra Vanilla extract.
- Milk whole or 2% 1/3 cup
- Granulated Sugar ¼ cup
- Half and Half 1 ¼ cup
- Turbinado Sugar or regular sugar is fine too for spinkling on top of each ramkin 2 Tbsp
- Vanilla Extract ½ tsp
- Egg Yolks 4
- Bailey’s Irish Cream 2 Tbsp.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Place 6 Ramekins into an ovenproof large dish that can hold water.
- Keep a kettle of water for boiling.
- Mix Half and Half and Milk in a container and heat on low to medium heat.
- Turn off the heat just before the mixture reaches boiling point.
- In a Stand Mixer, mix Egg Yolks and Sugar on medium speed until thoroughly mixed.
- Add the Irish Cream and Vanilla Essence and run for another minute.
- With mixer still running on medium speed, add the Milk mixture at a very slow speed to the Stand Mixer bowl.
- After you finish adding the Milk mixture, let the Mixer run for couple more minutes.
- Pour this mixture into 6 Ramekins.
- Now pour the boiling water into the oven proof dish that you placed the Ramekins in.
- Transfer the dish into the oven.
- Bake for 23 to 25 minutes.
- If your Ramekins are on smaller side, you will need more of them and your baking time will be reduced by couple of minutes.
- Take them out and let rest until ready to serve.
- When its time to serve, preheat the oven at Broiler position.
- Sprinkle sugar on each Ramekin evenly and keep under the broiler for 2 -3 minutes. Keep a watch to make sure Sugar doesn’t burn.
- Take it out and serve.
Misal is a popular Maharashtrian street food item. You will see several shacks selling this snack almost all over the state. In a town called Kolhapur, this snack is especially famous and you see small shops specializing only in this item. Every family apparently has their own special shop that they like to go to about once every 2 weeks or 3 weeks. I would say that’s a lot of loyalty.
I was in Kolhapur with my husband soon after we got married. We went to visit his cousin and they insisted that we go eat Misal in the absolutely the Best shop in the town. See? told you about loyalty. That Misal was an out of the world experience. Thinking back, I have no idea how I could handle the heat and the spices. After living in U.S. for several years, my taste buds prefer milder taste. The recipe is below is for those who cannot handle the heat of Kolhapuri Misal but would like the taste at the same time. Try it and tell me how it was. I hope you like it as much as my family did.
- Moth Beans/Matki 1 cup dry
- Onion 1 large chopped into small pieces – divided
- Tomato 2 medium – chopped into small pieces – divided
- Farsan/Fried snack available in Indian stores
- Cilantro a handful per taste
- Lemon juice 2 Tbsp – divided
- Bread – preferably white 3 slices per person
- Oil 1 tsp
- Garam Masala 2 tsp
- Date-Tamarind chutney – available in Indian stores
For the Spicy Gravy mixture
- Ginger paste ½ tsp
- Garlic paste ½ tsp
- Cinnamon ½ inch
- Cloves 3
- Black Pepper powder ½ tsp
- Bayleaf 1 large
- Cumin seeds 1 tsp
- Coriander powder ½ tsp
- Dry coconut powder 1 Tbsp
- Red chili powder 1 to 2 tsp per taste. Use more if you need more spicy/hot gravy
- Oil 1 Tbsp
- Salt per taste
- Soak Moth beans in water overnight with water coming about 3 fingers above the level of beans
- Next day pour out extra water, wrap the beans in double folded paper towel, place it back in the same utensil you had soaked them in and place the container in the oven. Do not turn on the oven.
- After 7-8 hours, remove the beans from oven and they should have sprouted.
- Place the sprouted beans in the pressure cooker with water about 2 fingers above the levels of beans and cook for 3 whistles. Remove from the heat and let the steam get out on its own cooking the beans fully.
- While the beans are cooking, cut the Onion and Tomato.
- Grind the dry spices for the gravy in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
- You will need two separate containers. In one of the containers, heat 1Tbsp of oil and add all the ground spices except Red Chili powder.
- Once they have turned fragrant, add Onion and half the Tomato. Let it cook for about 5 minutes while stirring occasionally so as not to burn.
- Add the coconut and sauté for another minute.
- Finally add the Red chili powder and 1 to 1 1/2 cup of water. Remove from the heat and keep aside.
- Once cooled, pour the mixture in a blender and blend until smooth. If needed add a bit more oil.
- In the smaller container, heat ½ Tbsp oil, add Onion and sauté for 3 minutes on medium heat.
- Add the Garam Masala and sauté for 30 seconds.
- Add Sprouted and cooked Moth beans and sauté for 5-6 minutes.
- Finally add a splash of Lemon juice and remove from heat.
- To serve, place 1/2 cup of Moth beans mixture in a bowl, top it with as much gravy as you would like, generally about 1/2 cup. Remember its very spicy and hot.
- Then top it with Frasan, Onion, Tomato, Cilantro and a splash of lemon juice.
- Add Date Tamarind chutney if you like it but a lot of people don’t.
- Enjoy with Bread slices.
- If you find it too spicy, you can add a dollop of yogurt on top.