February 28, 2012

Little fruit volcanoes

Here is a fun bake-science project you can do with your kids over the weekend! 

What you need: Makes about 12 little bundt cakes or cupcakes
1 and 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs    
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
Pinch of salt

For the decoration:
1 cup confectioners sugar
1-2 Tbsp milk
1 cup fresh strawberries cut into strips
1 cup fresh oranges cut into strips

Gently melt the butter on low heat. When its all liquid, set aside. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside.

In a medium bowl, add the eggs, sugar and vanilla, Beat until light and fluffy, adding in melted butter, at regular intervals. 

Gently add the sifted flour into the egg mixture until incorporated. Add in the milk and stir in with a spatula. Pour them into greased and flour dusted cupcake or mini-bundt pans. 

Bake them for about 12-15 minutes in a preheated oven at 325 degree F. Use a skewer or toothpick, and insert it into the middle of the cake, if it comes out clean, take it off and cool it completely. 

In a cup, add in the confectioners sugar and milk, and stir it well to get rid of any lumps. Turn the bundt cakes over, stuff a few fruit strips into the middle, and pour a spoon of sugar glaze around. 

Let it sit for a few minutes, before they are served. Enjoy!

February 27, 2012

Mongolian Noodles Stir-fry

There was this Mongolian grill I used to love, back in Michigan, years ago. Every time I think of that place, the aroma of sesame oil on that massive griddle, sauteing the  vegetables and noodles, still makes me salivate. I just had to try it today. I think that the key to getting a great stir fry, is three things: 1. Keep the ingredients fresh 2. Be quick with your hands 3. Keep the griddle smoking hot!

What you need: Serves 4 to 5
3 cups uncooked noodles
2 cups shredded boneless chicken
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
1 cup scallions/green onions cut into 1 inch strips
1 cup carrots cut into wide strips
1 cup cabbage cut into strips
1 cup onions cut into strips
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tsp rice wine
2 tsp oyster sauce
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sambal oelek( chili paste )
1/4 cup chopped cilantro 
1 Tbsp sesame or vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Sambal is a rich red chili paste that can be found in Asian stores, and can be used in most Asian dishes. You may use a teaspoon of chili flakes instead of it too.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles, and a teaspoon of salt. Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes until they are tender. Blanch them in cold water, set aside.

Warm up a large stove top griddle or shallow wok on medium high. Add in the sesame oil. As it smokes, add in the ginger and garlic. As they cook, toss in the chicken shreds, and toss constantly on high heat. 

Throw in the onions, cabbage, carrots and the sambal paste. Constantly toss and turn it for a minute, and lower the heat to medium. Add the cooked noodles, sugar and the sauces. Cook for just another minute or two. 

Add in salt and pepper. Garnish it with scallions and cilantro. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

February 21, 2012

Crusted Cat fish in a Mint Marinade

This is an easy stove top recipe that makes a mouthwatering main course.

What you need: Serves 4
4 Cat fish filets
4 springs of fresh mint
2 tsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp of finely chopped ginger
1/2 tsp of chili powder/paprika
Pinch of turmeric
Salt to taste
2 Tbsp of olive oil

For the crust:
1 tsp dried and crushed mint
1 cup of bread crumbs
Salt and pepper

In a little blender, add the fresh mint, ginger, lime juice and the powders. Grind them to a fine paste. To this paste, add a tsp of oil and salt; stir it in.

Place the filets on a plate. Massage both the sides with the mint paste. Cover with a plastic wrap and let them rest in the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes. Get a non stick pan warm on medium heat.  
In a shallow dish, stir together the bread crumbs, mint, salt and pepper. Dip the catfish fillets into the breadcrumb mixture and coat liberally.

 Add a tablespoon of oil on the hot pan, and place the filets, as many as you can fit into the pan.

Let them cook for about 4 minutes, until the crust is golden and crunchy. Flip it over to the other side and let them cook the same way. Poke a fork through the middle of one filet; if it is flaky, we are good.

My kids love shrimp, so I did the dipped them in the remaining marinade, and cooked them the same way. Serve them with a side of vegetable or soup, and dinner is served. Enjoy!

February 17, 2012

Sticky Chicken Fried rice!

What you need: Serves 4
3 cups cooked Chinese sticky rice (white or brown)
2 cups shredded boneless chicken
2 eggs 
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 cup carrots cut into strips
1 cup cabbage cut into strips
1 cup onions cut into strips
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tsp rice wine
2 tsp oyster sauce
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sambal oelek( chili paste )
1/4 cup chopped cilantro 
1/4 cup scallions/green onions cut into 1 inch strips
1 Tbsp sesame or vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook rice according to instructions on teh box with a teaspoon of salt, Drain and set aside. Day old rice works well too!

Sambal is a rich red chili paste that can be found in Asian stores, and can be used in most Asian dishes. You may use a teaspoon of chili flakes instead of it too.

Warm up a large stove top griddle or shallow wok on medium high. Add in the sesame oil. As it smokes, add in the ginger and garlic. 

As they cook, toss in the chicken shreds, and toss constantly on high heat. Break the eggs in, and saute until the eggs are scrambled finely.

Throw in the onions, cabbage, carrots and the sambal paste. Constantly toss and turn it for a minute, and lower the heat to medium. 

Add the sticky rice, sugar and the sauces. Cook for just another minute or two. Garnish it with cilantro and green onions. Serve hot, enjoy!

February 10, 2012

Palak Paneer / Spinach and Cheese curry

It is the best dish one can make out of spinach and cheese. The color combination, the texture and flavors, make this curry a world favorite.

What you need: Serves 4
6 cups of fresh spinach leaves
1 tsp of garlic paste
1/2 tsp finely chopped ginger
4 green hot chilies (more or less as you like)
2 cups paneer/Indian cheese cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tbsp oil
1 cup red onions finely chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp garam masala powder
1/4 tsp red chili powder/ paprika
2 tsp thick tomato paste or 1/2 cup fresh tomato puree
Salt to taste

Blanch the spinach in a big bowl of boiling water for about 5 minutes. Drain the spinach and place them into another bowl of ice water for 5 minutes. 

This is done so the spinach cooks just enough not to lose its color.
Drain, and add it into a blender. Toss in the green chilies along with it to make a smooth paste. Set aside.

In a skillet, add a few teaspoons of oil. When it smokes, add in the paneer cubes and shallow fry them until they are golden brown. Now once that is done, place them in a  bowl of warm water for about 5 minutes. This will keep them soft. Drain and set aside.

I the same skillet, add ginger and onions into the remaining oil. When the onions are translucent, add in the garlic paste and the powders. Let them cook for just a few seconds. 

Add in  the tomato puree and salt. When it begins to bubble, add in the spinach puree. Let is simmer on low for 5 minutes. Now add in the drained paneer, and garam masala and salt. 

Let it continue to simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve hot with a dollop of fresh or sour cream.  Serve hot with chapattis or steamed rice. Enjoy!

February 6, 2012

Caramel Coffee Bites

This year, I am on a mission to create mouthwatering desserts, yet go easy on the waistline. Baking little, bite sized desserts are one of them.

What you need: Makes 24 little squares, 20 mini muffins or about 14 cupcakes
1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 tsp instant coffee powder
1 cup boiling hot water
2 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract

I used the mini squares silicone pan, you may use the same, or mini muffin/cupcake pans.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt into the bowl.
In another bowl, whisk the butter, sugar and vanilla until combined. Add in the eggs and beat on medium until light and fluffy. Slowly combine the flour mixture into the wet mixture, beating on low speed.
Mix the coffee powder into boiling water. Once it is a smooth blend, pour it into the cake batter and fold in with a spatula.

Spray cooking spray into the cake cavities. You may also grease and flour them if you like. Pour the batter into the cake pan, filling the cavities about 3/4th full.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out to cool completely.

For the caramel glaze: Makes enough to cover the coffee bites, and some left to finger lick.
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 Tbsp milk and a few tsp more
1 and 1/2 Tbsp butter

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, and mix in nearly all of the milk and brown sugar. Boil vigorously for 1 minute.

Remove the mixture from heat, and beat in 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar. Let it cool a bit. Mix in the remaining sugar.

Add more milk if the mixture is too thick. Glaze the coffee bites with caramel icing. Decorate it with little chocolates. Your dessert is ready to devour. Enjoy!

Tangy Lime Fried Rice

This is a quick and easy way to transform left over rice into a tangy fried rice.

What you need: Serves 2 to 3
2 cups cooked rice/leftover rice
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 cup carrots cut into thin strips
1/2 cup colored peppers cut into strips
1/2 cup peas
1/2 cup red onions cut into thin strips
1/4 tsp fresh ginger cut into thin strips
1/4 tsp hot green chilies finely chopped
1 Tbsp oil
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste

Heat a skillet on medium high. Pour the oil, when it begins to smoke, add in the cumin seeds, followed by the ginger and green chillies.

Turn the heat to medium. Add in the chopped carrots, and peas. 

Saute for a few minutes until they are crunchy. Add in the red onions and peppers now. Saute for a few more minutes. 

Don't let the onions soften. Add in the lime juice, turmeric and salt. Give it a quick stir and toss in the cooked rice. 

Mix the rice and vegetables until the mixture is well incorporated. Serve warm as breakfast or lunch. Enjoy!

February 3, 2012

Almond Chocolate chip cookies

What you need: Makes 35-40 medium sized cookies
2 cups  flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped almonds
1/2 tsp salt

Mix the flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.

Whisk the butter, white sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy.

Add the eggs and beat until they are all combined.

Pour in the flour mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degree F.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface, Cut them into little rounds, using a cookie cutter. Place them on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake the cookies for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes.

Transfer them to wire racks to cool completely.

They can be stored in air tight containers with a slice of bread in the container, that way the cookies remain fresh and the bread soaks up the moisture. They taste fresh for up to a week. Enjoy!

February 1, 2012

Mean Green Chicken Skewers for Superbowl Sunday!

Good lord! The Super Bowl is just one day a year! Cant we have something delicious and greasy?!?  The Super Bowl is one of the biggest calorie-fests for  American football fans. Here are some ideas for a healthy spread with just a touch of fat!

Moist, tender chicken kebabs are low in fat and make an excellent appetizer, or light lunch. Serve it with some cucumbers and ranch, yum!

What you need: Makes 4 full skewers
2 lb boneless chicken breasts cut into 2 inch pieces
For the marinade:
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp white pepper powder
A handful of fresh cilantro leaves
6 to 8 green hot chilies, more or less as your taste buds can take
1/4 cup yogurt
4 tsp lime juice
Salt to taste
Bamboo skewers
Colored peppers, onions and tomatoes cut into large chunks

In a blender, make a fine paste of the marinating ingredients. Massage it into the chicken pieces and let it chill for about half an hour in a sealed plastic bag. If you can do this the previous night, it will taste great. 

Soak the bamboo skewers in water for about 30 minutes. Poke the marinated chicken pieces into skewers, alternating it with colored peppers, onions and tomatoes. Brush some light cooking oil or spray some cooking oil on them. 

Place on a greased tray if you are going to use the oven. Broil them in the oven for about 20-25 minutes at 400 degree F. Turn them half way, so both sides are lightly browned.

An open grill tastes the best, place the skewers on a preheated grill for 8-10 minutes, turning frequently, until cooked through and lightly browned. Squeeze some fresh lime juice just before they are served

Prepare a platter with a ranch sauce or just plain yogurt, some raw onion rings and cucumbers. Enjoy!

Crunchy Fish Cakes and Chickpea Rolls

These crunchy little fish cakes make a great appetizer. Swap the fish for 2 cups of cooked and mashed chickpeas and mold them into rolls; now they will feed your vegetarian friends too!

What you need: Makes 15-18 cakes
2 Tilapia or Cat fish fillets / swap this with 2 cups of chickpeas if you need a veg appetizer
2 med. potatoes boiled, peeled and mashed
1/2 cup boiled peas
1/2 cup red onions, finely chopped
1/2 tsp pepper powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp lime juice
1 egg
Homemade or store bought bread crumbs

Cook potatoes in water until soft. Peel and mash them. Cook peas with a few teaspoons of water and salt in a microwave, and set aside.

In a saucepan, add 2 cups or water, and bring to a boil. Add the fish fillets. and sprinkle some salt. Let it simmer on medium for about 5-7 minutes. Poke it with a fork, if is flaky, we are good, turn off the heat. 

Drain the fish; place it in a bowl and crumble it with a fork. Mix in the cooked fish, potatoes, peas, red onions and the powders. In the end, add the lime juice mix it gently one last time, and shape into little patties.

Dip them in a shallow bowl of beaten egg. Bread with bread crumbs. You may bake, shallow or deep fry these.

If you wish to bake them, place them on a greased baking sheet, and into a preheated oven at 375 degree for about 25 minutes. 

To shallow fry, get a skillet or griddle on medium high. Add a few teaspoons of oil. Once that starts to smoke, place the breaded fish cakes. In a minute or two, they will turn golden, turn them over and cook the other side. 

Serve it with your choice of dipping sauce. Enjoy!

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