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Friday, January 30, 2015

Eggless Dipped Cookies - The Perfect Valentine Hearts

It's that time of the year when love is in the air and hearts are everywhere.Not to be left behind ,here are mine...cookie hearts or more precisey eggless heart shaped dipped cookies . In this season of love , wanted to spread some cookie cheer especially the egg less kind. So, all of you who are always on the look out for eggless baking recipes can rejoice ! For once , you can follow the recipe without having to worry about substituting the egg it with apple sauce or banana. You guys are in for a treat..a sweet treat no less that a dipped heart one . let's get on with it -

Ingredients
For cookies -
2 1/4 cup flour
1 cup butter ( 2 sticks)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice 

For  Dipping -
1/2  cup red candy wafers (for dipping) /* use normal baking chocolate to skip the red color*/
2 tbsp shortening like Crisco

Method-
Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a bowl , with the help of a hand mixer, smoothen the butter  .
Add the packed brown sugar and beat till it blends in uniformly.
Time to add the salt and pumpkin pie spice . If you don't fancy pumpkin pie spice, add cardamom powder.

Start adding the flour, little at a time. Try to mix as much as you can with the beater and afterwards, use a spatula  to stir it all in.
Time to use your hands to shape it into a ball . We will then be rolling it on parchment paper . You can use another parchment paper on top and roll the dough between them.
Use a heart shaped mold or any other mold of your liking and cut into desired shapes.
Make sure the dough is not too thinly rolled ,otherwise your shape will crack while lifting. Now take the cut cookie dough and place it on a baking sheet.


Bake it in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until they turn a nice shade of  brown .Remove on a wire rack to cool.
Now, for the dipping , in  a double boiler (glass bowl on top of boiling pan of water making sure the glass one doesn't touch the water) add the candy wafers/chocolate and Crisco.

With the help of spatula, keep stirring till it gets a smooth consistency .Remember, the flame has to be on low.
Now, dip the cookies one at a time making sure the excess drains back in the bowl. Keep on a wax paper to set.

Valentine dipped cookies are ready . You may devour them yourself or gift them to someone special!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Spinach Egg Muffins and Cold Mornings



 The winter storm may have spared us but it still is very cold here in the Carolinas. These spinach egg muffins along with a cup of tea make cold winter mornings perfect ! Not that I needed a reason to enjoy these savory treats . Egg muffins have been on my  "to bake soon" list for quite some time and today's frigid cold morning gave me the perfect excuse to give them a try . 

I have two school goings kids and believe me when I say enforcing healthy breakfast options in the morning rush time is challenging ...but not impossible. Healthy breakfast muffins have come to my rescue in the past too..remember these banana oatmeal muffins ...they are fool proof and a great hit with the kids and hubby , every time I bake them.




I love savory muffins as a healthy breakfast option because of their ease of preparation. Sure, you have to chop a few veggies , beat the eggs but once you pop them in the oven , you are good to take care of the million things you need to get done in the morning. Once, out of the oven , they are so visually appealing that kids eat them readily and it is minimum mess.. win win situation.

Ingredients -

6 eggs
1/3 cup milk
2 cups chopped spinach
1/2 onion chopped
2 small tomatoes chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Grated cheese for sprinkling on top(optional)

Method

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a muffin tray ...I did not line them with muffin cups .

Start by chopping the onions and tomatoes. Raid your fridge and if you find any bell pepper ( no color discrimination ) chop that too . 
 

We are not done with chopping. Take some fresh spinach and show it some chopping love too. If you are using frozen spinach, make sure it is well drained.


Take the six eggs in a bowl and throw in the salt and pepper to taste . I used garlic salt for the added flavor.

Now , add the chopped veggies (onions, tomatoes and spinach) to the eggs and give it a good mix.

Pour the mix into the greased muffin pan . I hop you guys noticed that  one cavity is screaming for  attention.


Sprinkle some grated cheese on top. I used cheddar but you guys are welcome to try any or not try IE skip this step all together.

Bake in the oven for 30 - 35 minutes or till the center of the muffin is firm to touch.

While serving, spice it up with salsa or hot chili sauce as I did.

PS- Hubby gobbled three of them and actually mentioned that it was a good bake. Compliments from him are a rare occurrence so thought of sharing !

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Leopard Print Cake ..Apt for Hubby's bday

I'm a Gemini --and I live up to the reputation of my zodiac...I get bored easily ...actually that is not entirely accurate  ...what I  mean is that repetition bores me ...I have to try new and varied things to satiate my zodiac !! The same  goes for my baking as well ....maybe now I can understand my deep fascination for it ....it gives me a platform to fulfill my insatiable lust for  trying varied things ..the thrill it gives me as I embark on a new baking project is hard to put into words ..Baking  excites me and stimulates me and gives me a creative high ! Okay, you guys get the picture !!! 



Time to come back to this particular blog post which is about hubby's birthday cake . Having gone the floral, fresh fruit and geometric way for his  b'day cakes in the past .. this year was looking for some  fresh ideas . Also, please remember what I disclosed above. Luckily , my quest for some unique ideas came to an end when I noticed his current obsession with watching big cats on screen. He is not much into watching TV but due to a broken bone, he has ample time on his hands and fills it up with watching animal documentaries. So, a leopard print cake seemed to a perfectly apt choice.


And it was a hit ! So, without  further adieu let's talk about what all I had to do to come up with exotic leopard print cake.I started off by baking 2 pineapple cream cakes...won't be going into the recipe for the same as this blog post is primarily about decoration. You may go in for any cake flavoring ...even store bought cake mixes will do the trick. Next, I made some butter cream frosting using the Wilton recipe .It is the recipe that I am most comfortable with and always give the expected results. I covered both cakes with butter cream frosting . Notice how I didn't get overboard smoothing it as it was to be covered with fondant layer next anyways.


I used store bought fondant for the next layer. Took it out from it's container, kneaded it and rolled it big enough to cover the cake board as well. Didn't want the board print to contrast with the leopard print, so covering it was essential. Plus it also gave me a place to put it in the birthday greeting. 


The smooth  fondant layer was the perfect "canvas" on which I started making the exotic leopard print. Here is what I had ready for the same -
  • Wilton color brown
  • Wilton color black
  • pain brushes
  • bowls for mixing
  • vodka or lemon extract in a squeeze bottle for mixing .
  • paper towels       




Started with the brown . With the help of a tooth pick , took some in a bowl and diluted with the vodka (seen in the squeeze bottle)  till you get the right consistency. If you don't wnat to use the vodka, lemon extract also serves the same purpose. I dipped  the paint brush  in the brown and started dabbing on the fondant layer to form "circles"  with were not symmetrically round.
 Leopard prints are not perfect circles so I had to make sure to not make them too "circly"or round. Kept on dabbing with the paint brush to make the shapes  in different sizes following no particular pattern .You can see that they all vary in size and are not perfectly round too.

Done with the brown covering the cake, followed the same procedure for diluting the black. Once, I achieved the  right consistency , started  outlining the brown circles with the black color in shapes of "C" and "O" making sure as to not complete the "O". You may also use the parenthesis () shape as well. 


Continued outlining the brown circles with the  black on the covered cake board leaving some space for the Birthday Greeting. With a narrow tip brush, managed to paint the text of the greeting as well. An exotic leopard print cake was ready for hubby! I really had fun decorating this cake and the results were amazing . Do give  it a try .....experiment with  other color combinations and share with me how it turned out !

The inspiration for this cake came from  youtube tutorial by Krazy Kool Cakes & Designs by Laura E. Varela-Wong.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Banana Oatmeal Muffins and Breakfast Surprise !


The kids are going back to school after a extended weekend break and boy are they in for for a surprise when they come down for breakfast !! These healthy oatmeal banana muffins should cheer them up , right ? As one reader politely  remarked that the sight of any muffins can cheer kids up , I would still like to claim that my getting up early and making them as a breakfast surprise should make for some extra cheer ! 


Apart from making the kids happy , it is easy on the mommies too  . What with our frantic morning schedule , we need  mess free wholesome ideas that are time saving as well as being healthy for our kids. These muffins apart from the bake time are not time consuming and yield enough that you can send as part of lunch box too, not to mention saving some for later use . While they are baking, go take care of the million things we have to do to send the kids off to school and by the time the kids are seated at the breakfast table, you can serve them fresh out of then oven.


Ingredients-
1 1/4 cup oats
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large ripe bananas

Method -

Pre Heat the oven to 400 degrees F and place the muffin cups in your muffin pan cavities.
Take a bowl and  sieve the flour, oats, baking powder and baking soda.
Add the sugar to it , give a gentle whisk and keep aside.
In another bowl,  beat the egg and to the same bowl add the milk, oil and vanilla extract.
Stir it all together and then add the mashed bananas. Make sure it is also incorporated.
Finally , the flour mixture is added by gently folding. Try not to overmix.

Pour the batter equally in the muffin pan cavities and bake for 20  minutes.
Cool on a wire rack and enjoy !



Sunday, January 18, 2015

Egg and Veggies Breakfast Casserole on a lazy Sunday !

If you read the title carefully , you know that I'm enjoying a lazy Sunday . What makes this Sunday a super lazy one is the fact that I'm not dreading Monday..no loads of things to things to be done beforehand to prepare for the coming week...no waking up tomorrow at 5:30 ..yes, I am fully relishing this lazy Sunday for we have Monday and Tuesday off . So , for this week Wednesday will be the new Monday and Tuesday evening will be the time when I will be feeling gloomy !

My laziness extends to this blog post too. Hopefully , you guys will not notice it or will be too polite about it . I won't be skipping anything vital but will not be as detailed as my previous post .Thankfully, the pictures will come to the rescue, Let's say this blog post has a pictorial feel to it.Do give this breakfast casserole a try ..boasting of kale, spinach, chard greens , mushrooms, carrots and bell peppers, it surely helps take care of your five servings a day of vegetables. Plus it is super easy , makes minimal mess in the kitchen and saves time. Here is the ingredient list -

5 eggs
3 cups kale, spinach and chard greens
1/2 cup diced bell pepper
1/2 cup mushrooms
1/2 cup grated carrots
9-10 pickles carrots for garnishing
1 cup shredded cheese
6  bread slices
Milk -1/2 cup
salt and pepper to taste

Method- 

As for any baking, we need to preheat the oven. In this case, at 350 degrees F .
Grease a baking dish lightly .The one I used was a 7x11 pyrex dish.

Sprinkle the greens(kale, spinach and chard) liberally on the greased dish.


Follow this with the mushrooms and bell pepper. The color choice for the bell peppers is entirely yours. I was feeling partial towards yellow.

Now, cover it with the bread slices . Remove the outer edges ..they harden easily and spoil the texture.


Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top of the bread slices. My cheese of choice on this lazy Sunday was  cheddar .


On to the wet ingredients, mix the eggs and milk, To it , add bell pepper and garlic salt according to taste.Whisk it fine.



Cover the cheese spread bread with another layer of greens(kale, spinach, chard ) and pour the egg mixture evenly all over, Place the pickled carrots on top and place in the oven . Let it bake for 45 minutes. Take out, let it cool for 5 mins and serve !

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Mexican Corn Bread with JalapeƱos and Olives !

We , human beings always have a special affinity with our "firsts"..be it our first day in school/ college , first flying experience , first time eating a exotic dish  or our very first bake.We always hold onto that experience/memory with ferocious intensity and even let it dictate our emotion years later  If you guys got the hint and made the connection, pat yourselves on the back. Yes, Cornbread was my first solo bake and it's success lured into further baking pursuits. If someone were to ask my friends back in NY about my signature bake, corn bread would  unanimously win. It would always turn out soft and scrumptious ...so many memories of enjoying it in the company of  friends on a chilly day with hot steaming cups of tea..just plain divine would be how I would describe it.

If you have been following my blog, the fact that I am currently obsessed with Mexican cuisine wouldn't have escaped your notice. So,what better way to pay tribute to it than to bake Mexican cornbread. As I mentioned earlier I have baked cornbread before but mine was a sweeter version.  Did a little research which enlightened me to the fact that the Mexican version is less sweet and generally flavored with jalapeno peppers , olives and cheese. Traditionally, corn bread is made in a skillet and there are many recipes but the one I adapted from comes from Rick Bayless. As always, I took liberty to add/omit some ingredients according to my family's taste but the result was nevertheless excellent . Would highly recommend it if you are looking for a change from the usual breads.

Ingredients-
2  jalapeno peppers
7-8 olives
1 1/4 cup corn meal
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs
1/4 cup whole kernel corn
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
3 tbsp melted butter
2 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup buttermilk ( added 2 1/2 tbsp powdered buttermilk to 2/3 cup water)
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Method- 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit . Also,  grease a 9 inch baking dish .



Chop the jalapeno peppers and olives . Next , drench or coat them in all purpose flour to ensure that they don't sink to the bottom of the bread while baking.

Take a large bowl and sieve all the dry ingredients - cornmeal, flour,baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt. You can also whisk them together to ensure aeration.


In a separate bowl , mix the eggs with the milk and buttermilk. To make buttermilk, I simply added 2 1/2 tbsp of powdered buttermilk to 2/3 cup of water . You can also make buttermilk by adding 1 tbsp of vinegar or lemon juice in 1 cup of milk and letting it stand for 10 -15 minutes.


Now add this egg mixture to the sieved dry ingredients (flour mixture) and gently stir till incorporated.



Fold in the melted butter ,cheese , chopped jalapenos and olives as well as 3/4 th of the corn kernels. Take care as to not overmix.

Transfer to the greased baking dish and sprinkle the remaining of the corn kernels on top.

Bake it in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean. Cover the top with aluminium foil if you find it is browning too quickly with the radiant heat.

Remove from the oven ,cool on a wire rack , cut  into squares and enjoy !