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Every weekend morning, the kids choose between pancakes and waffles for breakfast. I have always relied on store bought mix, assuming that making it from scratch must be so difficult.

But, tired of reading the long list of ingredients in the mix box, I finally caved in last year, deciding to give making the batter at home a try.

To my surprise, not only is it easy, there are few ingredients involved. It takes about the same time as store bought mix and I now know everything that goes in the mix.

The kids also like to pitch in and help me make it in the morning.

I have been using this recipe for a year now and sharing it with you.

Ingredients:
(makes about 5-7 small to medium)
2 cups flour (i usually use a mix of all purpose and whatever is at hand - oats, whole wheat etc)
2 1/2 tspoon baking powder
1 tspoon sugar
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1 tspoon vanilla essence
1 1/2 cup milk

Method:

Sieve all the dry ingredients together. 

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the egg, and milk. Mix till it all comes together as a batter - not super runny. 
Let it rest for 15 minutes and it is ready. 
If I am making pancakes, I add some chocolate chips at this point. 
For Waffles, heat the waffle iron, pour a ladle on each side and follow instructions of your iron.
For Pancakes, pour a ladle of batter on a heated pan. Spray some oil, and turn after a minute or so till they are golden brown. 
Serve with fruits and syrup. Enjoy. 

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I was in India last year for makar sankranti after many years. It was wonderful to see all the variety of chikki, gajak, pithe, payesh that were so easily available. I even brought back some with me.

This year as sankranti rolled around, I made some almond brittle or badam chikki.

The Great British baking show has turned them into little critics. They are walking around pouting things like "is it crunchy enough?" "is the bread hollow sounding?," and all the things they have seen on the screen.

Surely enough, as soon as I told them I made some almond brittle, they asked, how is your caramel. The first thing they did, was to see if it was crunchy enough. It was, so I was saved.

Here is how to do it:

Ingredients:

1 cup almonds

2 cups white sugar

1/4 cup water

 
Method:

Blanch the almonds and chop them into little pieces. Heat the oven to 400 deg and toast them for 5 minutes.

Let it cool. In the meantime, take a thick bottomed pan and pour in the sugar. Then add in the water and turn the heat to medium high. The sugar will melt and start bubbling. It is a 10-15 minute process so keep an eye on the syrup. Once it starts to thicken, turn the heat to high and watch the color to change.

As soon the color turns golden or light brown, take it off the heat and pour it over the almonds on the tray.
Let it cool. Cut it in small pieces and enjoy.
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Happy new year everyone.  Hope your new year has started well. Are you working on any new resolutions in 2019? 

I do intend to set some goals, write some intentions for the coming year, but not setting any resolutions. I feel some of the best things happened when I was no thinking about them, they were not on my list. So this year, I am opening myself to possibilities with some goals. 

Let's see how it goes.  


Coming back to this recipe, I didn't think of it as a recipe. But in the last week, I feel we have give this recipe to atleast 3-4 friends so writing it down to share with more friends.

We got the instant pot about a year and a half ago. When we got it, Aswin immediately started using it and I ignored it for a while, a little intimidated.

Slowly, I started warming up to it, even joined a couple of recipe groups and tried different recipes, getting comfortable with it.

Over the course of last year I have made chicken chili, palak paneer, rice, sambar, chole, hummus, and egg curry.  This winter I am using it for yogurt as well.

But what I love the most are the boiled eggs made in the instant pot.  Over the last year, Aswin has perfected his method - 5 minutes for boiled eggs, 8 minutes for hard boiled recipe.

Here is how he does it:

Ingredients:

6 boiled eggs
1 cup water
1 bowl iced water

Method:
Put the water and then the eggs on a tray in the instant pot.

Set the instant pot on manual setting for 5 minutes.  Then let it sit in the instant pot for another 5 minutes before the release. Open the instant pot.

Then take the tray with the eggs out and drop them in the bowl of iced water. Let it sit for a minute and then peel the eggs.


They are ready to eat. We made some desi-style deviled eggs with this batch.
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Merry Christmas everyone. I hope everyone is enjoying their break.

We had a cookie exchange in our neighborhood earlier this month and this year, I decided to make something different.

You see, the favorite show for us to watch together now a days is the Great British Bake Off. Lil A and Tiny M are into it too and together we found ourselves cheering for Nadiya Hussain from episode one. Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry are rubbing off on them and they are becoming quite the judges when it comes to baked goodies.

In fact, when I take them grocery shopping now, they stop in the bread aisle checking breads with sentences like "yes, this sounds hollow", "what temperature was this cooked at," etc.

So we had to make something special and something British for the cookie exchange. We settled on millionaire's shortbread.

It was also my first time making caramel and I learned that light brown sugar make the caramel light, better to stick with the dark brown sugar.

I followed the recipe from America's Test Kitchen, modifying it a bit to my needs.  It came out quite well.



Ingredients:
For shortbread:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tspoon salt
16 tbspoons or 2 sticks on melted and cooled unsalted butter

 For caramel:
1 can sweteened condensed milk
1 cup brown sugar. I used light brown, but a dark brown sugar will give a better color
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 tspoon salt
1/4 cup heavy cream (the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup, but I decided to reduce it and it worked for me)

For chocolate:
6 oz of bittersweet chocolate
3 tbspoon of whole milk or whipping cream

Method:
Take a pan and line it with a aluminum foil going across  making a X, so it is easy to take it out when all the layers are built together.

For Shortbread:
Sift all the dry ingredients together and then pour the melted butter in the flour mix and use a spatula to mix it in slowly.

It will come together like a thick dough. Spread it in the pan and press it lightly with your hands. Then take a fork and make some holes across the dough to help it cook evenly.

Cook it for about 20-25 minutes till it is cooked and light brown. When it comes out of the oven, press it down lightly one more time so it doesn't crumble everywhere.

For caramel:
Mix all the ingredients in a thick bottomed pan and cook on low-medium heat for about 18-20 minutes till it becomes a thick bubbling mixture. The temperature should be between 230-240 degF.

Pour the caramel over the shortbread and let it cool and set completely. It takes 2-3 hours.

For chocolate:
The original recipe calls for microwaving the chocolate, but I melted it using the double boiler method.

Heat a pan of water and once it is simmering, put the chocolate and the whipping cream in a bowl. Put the bowl over the simmering water and stir till the chocolate melts completely.

Pour the chocolate over the caramel and cover the entire layer with a nice thing layer.

Put it in the fridge to cool and set the chocolate. It is ready to cut and serve. I put some red and white icing on top to make it a little festive. Enjoy.


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Happy Diwali everyone. I hope you all had a wonderful celebrations with your friends and family. It was wonderful to get friends and family spend some time together.

This Diwali, I decided to make this dessert on an impulse - Chocolate almond barfi or fudge. The texture was indeed fudge-like, not the kora pak we Bengalis like to call it. Chewy with the almond and chocolate, it was quite delicious.

I even added in some white chocolate chips on top to entice the little ones, but they stayed away. The adults, on the other hand, all enjoyed the barfi.

Festivals have a way of bringing up all the food memories of sharing food during festivals, people who made it special, and of eating and cooking. I was on my way back from work and I heard a cookbook author on NPR echo those same thoughts.

And Fall is full of these festivals and celebrations. Birthdays, Diwali, soon Thanksgiving and Christmas. How do you like to celebrate these special moments?

Ingredients:
(makes about 12-15 squares)
1 1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup besan or chickpea flour
2 tbspoon cocoa powder
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup ghee
1 1/2 cup sugar

Method:
Take some ghee and coat a plate you would be using later. Set it aside.

Then, take a tbspoon of ghee and heat it on a thick bottomed pan. Roast the chickpea flour till the raw smell disappears. Set it aside.

Add the sugar in the pan along with the milk. Once the sugar dissolves, add in the ghee. Then slowly, a few tbspoons at a time, add in the almond flour, chickpea flour, cocoa powder. Make sure to mix it well together so there are no lumps.

Keep stirring the mix for about 10-15 minutes on medium low heat till it leaves the sides.


Transfer it on a plate and let it cool. Add in some almond flakes or chocolate chips on top. Cut and make squares and serve.
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Just as we wind up Halloween, I stay up trying to make a cake for Tiny M who is coming up on 6 years. Not a little guy anymore!

His request for this year were confetti cake and Pokemon cookies. So when they went to bed, I browsed through recipes and zeroed in on Smitten Kitchen's recipe.  I wanted to make a two-layer cake, so I doubled up her recipe except egg whites partly because I had only 3 eggs at home and it was too late to get more.  I also had vanilla bean paste at hand and used it. The only thing I did not double was the sprinkle measurement, but it was close.

Let me tell you, her idea of using cornstarch in this cake is genius! I haven't used cornstarch in cakes before and wasn't so sure, but I went with the directions.  It made the cake soft and the white cake also pops the colors of the sprinkles.

I used whipped cream instead of the butter cream for some lightness and a little sprinkles to round it off.

Ingredients:
(recipe from Smitten Kitchen)
 2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup or 2 sticks butter
1 and 1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 tspoon salt
3 large egg whites
1 cup buttermilk (I just made it from yogurt)
2 tspoon baking powder
4 tbspoon cornstarch
1/2 tspoon vanilla bean paste or 2 tspoon vanilla essence

Frosting
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tspoon vanilla bean paste

Method:
Heat the oven to 350degF and butter and flour your cake pans. Set them aside.

Now mix the sugar and butter for 3-4 minutes till it mixes well. Add the egg whites one at a time till the mixture looks fluffy.

Then add in the vanilla paste and the buttermilk and I couldn't say it better than what Deb says in her blog - it starts to look like curdled milk or fresh paneer. Don't be alarmed. It's okay.

Add in the cornstarch and baking powder and mix it well together. Then add in the flour till it all mixes well.

Now add in the sprinkles and fold it in with a spatula, but be careful. The color from the sprinkles will start to run, so avoid too much mixing.

Separate it in two pans and bake. Mine took 24 minutes so anywhere between 20-25 minutes till the toothpick comes out clean.

Let the cake cool. Make the whipped cream right before it's ready to be served.

For the whipped cream, mix heavy whipping cream with sugar and vanilla and mix till the soft peaks form.

Now spread some whipped cream evenly between the two layers and all around the cake.
Use some sprinkles for decorations and serve.
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Shubho bijoya everyone. Here the temperatures dropped right before the pujo, so it has been a lot colder this year.

But that doesn't dampen the festival spirits, right? Even though the work week is busy and regular stuff and pujo is over the weekend, it's fun to make something special during the week.

Growing up, Durga pujo was more about meeting friends, fun, and eating out more than the religion part, and I am hoping that kids get some of those moments too. Even if it means carrying the Pokemon tins, chess boards and coordinating with friends.

It turned out to be fun, they sat around and played chess and games while we caught up on our end.

During the week, I made malai chamcham. I didn't intend to make it the long way, but it turned out to be so. I forgot to follow the advice I give out here and put sugar in the heavy cream in the beginning. So I started over again for malai, this time with whole milk. The result of it all - delicious malai chamchams, that reminded us of sweet goodness during the busy work week.

Here is how I made it:

Ingredients:
(makes about 8-10 medium chamchams)
For chamchams:
1/2 gallon whole milk
juice of 1 lemon
1 cups sugar
3 cups water
3-4 cardamoms
dash of rose syrup

For malai:
2 cups whole milk
pinch of saffron strands soaks in milk
1/4 cup sugar

Method:
Making chana/paneer:
Bring the mil to a boil and when it starts to boil, add the lemon juice till all the milk curdles. Wash it under water, tie it in a cheese cloth and let the extra whey drip.

Making chamchams:
I prefer to do it with plain chana, without the semolina or maida/all-purpose flour. Get ready for some hand exercise. Start kneading the chana/paneer with your hands till it becomes soft with a dough texture.

Then take a little in your palm and roll it with both hands in a circle, then elongate it to make a cylinder shape.

Keep them on a plate as they are done.

Boil the sugar with the water and cardamom in a pressure cooker till it disappears and thickens, about 6-8 minutes.

Once the syrups is ready, add the chamchams in the pressure cooker gently, taking care that it doesn't disintegrate. Now steam the rasgulla balls in the sugar syrup on medium heat for two whistles. Take it off the heat and let it cool.

Making malai:
Take the milk and boil it over low medium heat over 30-45 minutes till it thickens. This is the long way, the easier one would be to take some condensed milk, or heavy cream and thicken that. It will be much faster.

Once the consistency is thick, add in the saffron and the sugar and cook for another 5-10 minutes till they mix well.


Serve the malai over the chamchams.   Enjoy!
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It's that time in the farmer's market when every vendor is eager to get rid of their zucchinis and summer squashes.

They are plentiful, there are everywhere and they are cheap. And pretty much every time I go, I pick up some. You can get a nice long one for a dollar or a mix for a couple of bucks.

I planted a few zucchini plants this summer, but I didn't get any zucchinis. I got a lot of flowers, but no zucchinis, but with farmer market I have nothing to worry about.

This is the new favorite - zucchins and squashes strifried with some curry leaves and paprika. It turned out really good, and we munched on some as an appetizer while we waited for the rice and dal to be done.

Ingredients:
(serves 3-4)
2 medium zucchinis
1 medium summer squash
8-12 curry leaves
1 red chili
1/2 tspoon paprika powder
1/2 tspoon cumin seed powder
1/4 tspoon turmeric powder
2-3 tbspoon oil
salt to taste

Method:
Wash and cut the zucchini in equal sized round pieces.

In a shallow pan, heat the oil. Then add in the turmeric powder, the red chili and the curry leaves.

Add int he zucchini and summer squash pieces till they are coated in the turmeric.

Stir-fry them for 2-3 minutes. Then add int he paprika, cumin seed powder and salt.

Cover the pan with a cover and let it cook for 5 minutes on low-medium heat. I didn't add any water, the zucchini and the summer squash will let you water that will help them cook.

Take the lid off, mix it all together and check if they are done. If not, cover and cook for another 2-3 minutes.


Serve hot with some dal, and rice. It even makes nice appetizer. Enjoy.
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I am finding it's hard to come back to regular blogging after taking a break. The time is taken up by other things - taking kids to their appointments, work, laundry, you name it.

But that doesn't mean that I am not cooking, or am not as excited when I try a new recipe. Slowly, but surely I am making my way back here.

For Ganesh chaturthi this year, we had some friends over to make for modaks and idlis. There was lemon rice, coconut rice, sambar, bhaji, chutney, fried stuffed anaheim peppers and vermicelli payasam to go with it.

My MIL makes the best lemon rice. She makes it whenever she is visiting and this time I made it using her recipe. I didn't have lemons so I substituted lime. It turned out great.

It is a staple around festivals so I am noting it here. I haven't added any nuts, but some peanuts or cashews also taste great in it.

Ingredients:
2 cups rice
Juice from 21/2 lemons/limes

For tempering:
1/2 tspoon turmeric powder
1 tspoon mustard seeds
1/4 tspoon asafoetida (hing)
1 red chilli
1 green chilli
1 tbspoon chana dal
1 tbspoon urad dal
handful of curry leaves
salt to taste
2 tbspoon oil

 
Method:
Cook rice till it is just done. I just cook it on stovetop and check till it is done. Drain and spread the on a plate or tray to dry and cool.

In a separate bowl,  mix the lemon juice with some salt and 1/4 tspoon of turmeric powder. Then slowly add it to the rice and mix it.

Then heat the oil in a wok or karai. The wok helps mix the rice with the rest of the ingredients. Once the oil it hot, add in the asafoetida, then the mustard seeds. When they start popping, add the chana and urad dal.

Then add the red and green chilis, the rest of the turmeric powder, salt and last the curry leaves.

Now time to add in the rice slowly, a little at a time and mixing it with the rest of the ingredients.

Once it's all mixed in take it off the heat.

It's ready to serve.
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If you follow my Instagram, you know that I just harvested a couple of cucumbers from the garden. I planted cucumbers for the first time last year and liked getting cucumbers for a quick salad from the garden when they were ready.

This year, the cucumber plants have sort of taken over the garden. There are two pepper plants growing next to them, but are now completely hidden by these massive cucumber plants.

I am wondering if I should move the pepper plants. Do you think it will survive the move?

I took both the cucumbers and used it for dinner last night. I cut some cucumber for the kids and for us, I made a quick cucumber salad. For this sudden inspiration, I just used what was available at home, and like most of the recipes here can be customized to your ingredients and taste.

I used basil and parsley - herbs growing in the front porch. But cilantro and mint would taste good too. I used aged cheddar cheese but feta would also be a good option. The onions give a kick so I would recommend it.

Add a slice of crusty bread and it can make a good lunch option too.

Here is how I did it.

Ingredients:
(serves 2)

1 1/2 medium cucumbers
handful of basil - chopped
handful of parsley - chopped
1/4 cup chopped cheddar cheese
1/4 onion - thin slices and separated

For dressing
1/2 tspoon toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tspon lemon juice
salt to taste
some fresh ground black pepper

Method:
Peel and cut the cucumbers to cubes. Add in the herbs, onions and cheese.
Whisk the dressing in a separate bowl and pour it over the salad.


Mix and serve.
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