Sunday, March 19, 2017

Rainbow Cake from scratch!








Off late I have been rather low on energy... I get tired rather easily. I am sure those who know me or have been following my blog would have noticed that I don't post that often now and I am also not that active on social media. I have just enough energy to get through my 2 jobs, cooking and the other everyday household chores.





So why I am I telling you all this?? To give you testimony of what a child can make a mother do!! This is the first year that I didn't have my daughter's birthday celebration at home. I had it at Michaels with very few of her school friends. This way I didn't have to cook much or worry about cleaning the house! 
I ordered Pizza from Papa John's & made a nice chickpeas salad. I had some chips, grapes for the kids to munch on. I was going to order cake from Costco, but my daughter requested for a " mommy" cake as every year. She wanted something with a fairy on top! I relented and decided to make an enchanted fairy garden cake. But what about the inside of the cake?? I decided that I will try my hand at the Rainbow cake! After all there has to be something beautiful when it comes to fairies!




In the past, I have quite a few times used boxed mixes when I have made 3-D cakes like the Tinkerbell cake, the Elsa cake, the McQueen car cake. With all the food I was cooking, I didn't need the additional hassle about worrying about the texture of the cake. This year, since I was not cooking any food, I decided to make the cake from scratch. I looked for the perfect vanilla cake recipe that I could rely on. I found it here. I modified the recipe to suit my needs by doubling it and using cooking oil instead of shortening. I also used a mix of sour cream & yogurt instead of buttermilk. I also reduced the sugar. I used this rainbow cake recipe as a guide. Again, I modified the recipe to suit my needs by virtue of the recipe itself & the amount used. I baked using four 9 inch pans ( which was how many pans I had) and had to adapt the recipe accordingly.





So how is this cake healthy?? All the ingredients are fresh, no shortening has been used. I have ensured that the cake is not too sweet. I have also tried to use minimal food coloring. You can make it completely using natural food colors. You can check they recipe here. The buttercream layers are thin between the cake layers, as is the outer layer.




Overall, while this cake is easy to make if you have 6 pans, it requires some patience if you are using only 2 or 3 as you have to bake the cake in batches and wait for the cake to cool down to remove it out of the pans and bake the next batch! I also had difficulty with my mixing bowl as it wasn't big enough therefore there wasn't enough room for the batter to be mixed !! If I were to make it again, I would make the batter in 2 batches.

The assembling itself is not hard. You just have to ensure that all the layers are the same thickness. A cake leveler is very handy for this.

Frosting: I made a double the batch of my favorite buttercream frosting. You can check the recipe here. It was just enough for layering and icing the cake! Mind you, I used a thin layer of frosting.





Let's now go ahead and check the recipe in it's entirety. The ingredients can be divided into half to make 2 batches of the cake batter.








Servings: 12-14



Ingredients:


For the cake:

Butter: 2 cups ( 4 sticks), softened
Coconut oil: 1 cup ( any cooking oil can be used).
Sugar: 5 cups
Eggs: 10 large, room temperature
Vanilla essence: 3 tsp
All purpose flour: 6 cups
Baking powder: 4 tsp
Salt: 1/2 tsp
Whole milk: 1 cup
Yogurt: 1/2 cup
Sour cream: 1/2 cup ( you can use 1 cup sour cream if you don't have sour cream).
Food coloring: gel colors in 6 colors: violet, blue,green, yellow, orange & red.

Method:


Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.
Prepare six 9-inch round cake pans by greasing it with butter and dusting it with flour or by just using a non-stick spray.

Line the bottom of each cake pan with parchment paper circle.

Take 6 bowls: add 2 tbsp milk to each bowl and add one each of the six colors, mix and keep ready.





Mix together the remaining  milk with the yogurt,sour cream and vanilla essence. Keep aside.

Cream together butter & oil until light and fluffy, around 3-4 mins.  Do not rush this step! It is very important.  Add sugar one cup at a time, making sure to mix it after each addition.


Add one egg at a time, beating it until fluffy after the addition of each egg!

Sift together flour, sugar and baking powder.

Fold the flour mixture into the butter-egg mixture, alternating it with the milk mixture. Start and end with the dry ingredients. Make sure not to vigorously mix it. Just gently and thoroughly.




Add 1.5 cups of batter to each of the prepared bowls with color. Gently mix it so that the batter is evenly colored.




Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. By the end you should have 6 cake pans with 6 different color batter in each. If you have less number of pans, bake just that many colors and wait for those to be baked and cooled and removed out of the pans to bake the next batch.

Place the pans on the middle 2 racks.

Bake for 25-30 mins or until a toothpick comes out clean. Rotate the pans halfway through the baking them. After 25 mins, I like to check every 2-3 mins to check if the cake it done.

Take the pans out and let the cakes cool down ( atleast 30 mins) before taking them out of the pan.

To level the cakes, wait for it to cool down completely ( atleast another 30 mins).




This cake tends to crust due to the sugar & egg in it. Don't be alarmed. You will be cutting off the crusty tops while leveling the cake. I like to use my cake leveler to level the cake as I can mark the height on the leveler and this way I can ensure that all the cake layers have the same thickness.






Level off all the 6 cakes and keep aside.




Now take a cake board that is 1 inch less in diameter. Keep it on top of the leveled cake and trim the crusty edge of the cake. You can use any object that is a circle and slightly smaller than the cake. I used a stainless steel plate. Do this with all the 6 cakes.

Now it is time to layer the cake!!

Take a cake board. I have used a 9 inch cake board.




Place a small dollop of frosting in the center of the cake board.


Place the purple cake layer on top of it.




Now spread the frosting on top of the cake in an even fashion so that it is 1 cm thick. I used a piping bag to do this.

Now arrange the other layers in the same fashion in this order: blue, green, yellow, orange and red.


Once the top layer has been placed, Stick a thick straw in the center of the cake. I did this so that the layers don't shift during transportation.




Now do a crumb coating to the entire cake. Crumb coating is applying a thin layer of frosting to the entire cake. This seals in the crumbs and makes it easy to ice the cake.


Place the cake in the refrigerator for atleast 30 mins.




After 30 mins, remove the cake out and frost it any way you desire! I applied another thin coating of frosting as I didn't want the cake to be too sweet.


I decorated the cake once I reached Michaels as I didn't want the cake to be messed up during transportation.

Decorating the cake:
Crumble some of the crust from the cake that was cut of earlier. Mix different colors. Sprinkle it along the diameter of the top of the  cake.
I sprinkled some around the base too once it was placed on the stand.





I used edible flowers made from royal icing to make my enchanted garden at the top. I used a fairy from the enchanted planted garden that I had and and an angel from Michaels as cake toppers.





This cake can be sliced thinly as it is quite tall.





My daughter and everyone who came for the party loved the cake. I hope you do too!!

Enjoy!!


I am going to share this birthday cake with all my friends at Angie's Fiesta Friday! Angie, I know I have not been a frequent visitor this year at your parties, but I am sure you understand. I shall try to stop by more often now.






Cooking made easy:


When you make an elaborate cake such as the one above, it helps if you give yourself extra time to get everything done, especially if you have to bake the cake in batches.
Also, buttercream frosting can be made a week or 2 early and kept in the refrigerator. Just bring it to room temperature before using.

Tip for healthy living:


When making cakes like this, reducing the amount of frosting used really helps reduce the sugar content per slice. A little thin layer of frosting between layers won't make that big a difference. Also, while serving slice thinly so that you don't end up eating  much nor will there be too much wastage.

Food for thought:



If I am always comparing myself to other human beings, I am either suffering from ego or jealousy.




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Friday, March 3, 2017

Ramen/Maggi noodles Made Healthy!!



You don't believe me do you?? It is true.. Ramen can be made healthy..
Check out my Buckwheat Mushroom Rice Ramen.





So what exactly is Ramen?? Ramen has many names. Ramen in India is popular as Maggi noodles. Basically these are instant noodles that comes with a seasoning packet( tastemaker) that can be ready in 2 minutes!! The biggest issue with ramen that makes it unhealthy is the seasoning packet or tastemaker that most often than not has monosodium glutamate amongst other ingredients that makes ramen  so desirable. Not to mention the fact that these noodles are made out of white bleached flour with little nutritional value!




With all that being said, how do we make these noodles healthy?? Basically, by taking away the undesirable ingredients and adding nutritient-rich ingredients. Instead of using plain water, we use vegetable broth to cook the noodles. A variety of vegetables are sautéed and added on top of the noodles. Now does it sound healthy, nutritious and delicious??Also, do not forget that Maggi is available in atta version and oats noodles. Here in US, we get buckwheat and rice noodles/ramen. 





Whatever said and done, all of us at some point in our lives have lived on Ramen/Maggi ( remember college days??) or had it when we didn't have anything else in our pantry.. someway or the other, Ramen remains a comfort food... With the weather yo-yoing, people look forward to a bowl of Ramen to warm them.

Check out the recipe to see how you can make it, enjoy it but in a guilt-free manner.

Prep time: 5-10 minsCook time: 8-10 minsTotal time: 13-20 mins


Servings: 4


Ingredients:


Instant noodles ( Maggi/Top Ramen): 2 packets
Water/ vegetable broth: 4 cups
Olive oil: 1 tbsp
Onion: 1, medium, sliced lengthwise.
Green Pepper: 1 medium, sliced lengthwise
Red Pepper: 1 medium, sliced lengthwise.
Mixed vegetables: 2 cups ( any combination can be used; I used frozen peas & carrots)
Green chilies: 1-2, chopped fine ( optional)
Tomato: 2 medium, sliced lengthwise.
Lemon wedges: 4-8 nos
Salt: to taste
Cilantro: 1 tbsp for garnish, optional

Method:


In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water/ vegetable broth to a boil. While waiting for the liquid to boil, prepare the veggies.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a sauté pan or frying pan. 

Add sliced onions. Sauté until the onions wilt. 
Add the frozen vegetables, chopped green chilies & sauté for 2-3 mins until the peas & carrots are slightly tender. 
Add the sliced Bell peppers. Sauté for 2 mins. 
Add salt & cilantro ( reserving some for garnish). 
Turn off the stove.

Break the noodles & add it to the boiling liquid. 
Continue to boil for exactly 2 mins. Turn off the stove. 
Cover the pot and let it sit for 1-2 mins.

Take 4 serving bowls. 
Divide the noodles equally into them. 
Divide the veggies into 4 equal portions. 
Top each bowl with the cooked vegetables , slices of tomato and a wedge of lemon. 
Garnish with little cilantro.

Serve immediately!

Enjoy!

Cooking made easy:


Any combination of frozen & or fresh vegetables can be used. Just keep in mind the cooking time for the vegetables. If the vegetables take long to cook, cook them separately and then add to the sautéed onions.


Tip for healthy living:


Adding 3-4 colors of vegetables to your dish ensures that you get a variety of essential vitamins and other nutrients through your meal. The color of the vegetable is usually an indicator of the nutrient that they are rich in. For examples, the orange color of carrots indicates that they are rich in beta carotene.


Food for thought:

It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. John wooden



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Monday, February 20, 2017

Mint-Cilantro/Coriander-Coconut Chutney



Mint-Cilantro chutney is one of my favorite chutneys! It is a go-to accompaniment for must appetizers, be it kebabs, pakoras or bhajias! It is also great with almost all kinds of dosas & idlis. It is a perfect amalgamation of the fragrance and flavors of both herbs. This chutney can be made with or without coconut. 





I like to make it with coconut as it adds bulk to the chutney. When I make it with coconut, I usually do not use garlic or onion in it. I only use ginger and green chilies to spice it up. For the version without coconut, click here.





Servings: 10

Prep time: 15 minsCook time: 0Total time: 15 mins



Ingredients:


Cilantro: 1/2 bunch, leaves separated from the stems & cleaned, stems discarded.
Mint: 1/2 bunch, leaves separated from the stems & cleaned, stems discarded.
Freshly grated coconut: 1 cup
Green chillies: 2-3 small, can be adjusted based on individual spice level.
Fresh ginger: 1 inch, peeled.
Tamarind: if dry marble sized. If using the pulp, 1/4 tsp.
Salt: as per taste
Water: 1/2 cup

Tempering: ( optional)

Coconut oil: 1 tsp
Mustard seeds: 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves: 1 sprig

Method:


In a blender, add all the above ingredients except cilantro and mint and grind them.When coconut is almost ground to a fine paste, add the cilantro & mint leaves and blend it to a fine paste.
You could add a little more water while grinding as needed as per your desired consistency of the chutney.

Tempering ( optional):

Heat coconut oil in a small frying pan. Add mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds splutter, add curry leaves and turn off the flame.
Add this tempering to the chutney.

This chutney could be served with samosas,rotis, fritters, rotisserie chicken, kebabs etc. It could also be used in sandwiches.

Enjoy!

Cooking made easy:


It is a great idea to make this chutney and keep it in your freezer to use as needed. This chutney is not only a great as a dip but is also a great base for vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes and pulao and biryanis.

Tip for healthy living:


Herbs have plenty of medicinal value. It is an established fact that mint is a great digestive aid.

Food for thought:


Genius is the ability to renew one's emotions in daily experience. Paul Cezanne





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Monday, February 13, 2017

Beeting Heart Quinoa Salad; Vegan; Meatless Monday





When I was browsing my local newspaper the other day, I came across this salad recipe that had roasted beets cut into heart-shapes! I just fell in love with the look of it! I cook beets regularly in the form of stir-fry, salad, sauté etc. I have never roasted them! I roasted them this time and I wondered to myself: why didn't I ever think of roasting them before??? I like the roasted beets. The original salad recipe was using salad greens as the base. I didn't have salad greens handy and wanted to make something more filling and nutritious, hence decided to make it a quinoa-beet salad. I also tried this dressing which was so unlike any dressing I have made until now. I was fearful at the beginning, but in the end it was totally worthwhile! The original recipe calls for shallots to be sautéed and then ground with grape seed  oil, champagne vinegar & mustard .  I didn't have some of those ingredients, so I modified the recipe by substituting shallots with white onion and champagne vinegar with red wine vinegar. Instead of grapeseed oil, I used extra virgin olive oil. I also added 1 green chilli while blending to give the dressing a spicy kick! This dressing has a nice creaminess to it without the calories!





You can also serve this salad on a bed of baby greens.
Do try this salad if you guys get a chance. I am sure you will like it!

Servings: 4-6


Prep time: 15-20 minsCook time: 15-20 minsTotal time: 30-40 mins


Ingredients :


For the quinoa salad:

Quinoa: 1 cup, uncooked
Water: 2 cups
Salt: a pinch
Cucumber: 1, medium-sized
Cherry tomatoes: 10, sliced into halves,
Walnuts: 1/4 cup, toasted
Scallions: 1, chopped fine.

For the beets:
Beets: 3 medium-sized one
Olive oil: 1 tbsp
Salt: to sprinkle lightly

For the Marinade:

Olive oil: 1 tbsp+ 1/4 cup
White Onion: 1, medium ( around 1 cup, chopped)
Red wine vinegar: 3 tbsp
Dijon mustard: 1 tbsp
Green chilli: 1
Sugar: 1 1/2 tsp
Salt: 1/4 tsp

Method:


Preheat the oven to 375 deg F.
Peel and slice the beets and arrange them on a greased baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle olive oil and salt on the slices. Keep the tray on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 30-40 mins or until the beets are tender.

Let the beets cool down. Once they are cool enough to handle, using a heart- shaped cookie cutter, cut the beets into heart-shaped. Keep it aside. Chop the remaining scraps of beets and keep aside.

While the beets are cooking, make the quinoa.
Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Add 1/2 tsp salt and 1 cup washed quinoa. Reduce the flame to low, cover the saucepan and let it cook for 15mins. When done all the water should be gone and you should see small curly strands on the quinoa. Fluff it with a fork/ spoon and keep aside to cool.

When the quinoa is cooking, chop the cucumber, scallion and slice the tomatoes. Add the vegetables to a bowl. When the quinoa is cooked & cooled well, add it to be bowl. Keep aside.

For the marinade:

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan. Sauté chopped onions until transparent. Turn off the flame and let it cool. Grind it with all the ingredients listed under " for the marinade". Keep aside or refrigerate until ready to use.

Assembling the salad:


Add the desired amount of the dressing to the bowl with quinoa and veggies. Mix well. Add the roasted walnut pieces.

Serve  on salad plates. Top with beet hearts!

You can serve this salad on a bed of salad greens.

Enjoy!

Cooking made easy:


You can use the leftover roasted beet scraps in the salad by chopping it and mixing it. You can modify this salad by using ingredients that you have on hand.

Tip for healthy living:


All the ingredients in this salad are healthy and nutrient-rich.
Quinoa is a good source of protein. Beets have multiple benefits.

Food for thought:

Love is a canvas furnished by nature and embroidered by imagination. Voltaire


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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Quick Vegetarian Puffs





How many of you remember your childhood buying freshly made puffs from your local bakery? I am always nostalgic when I think of the puffs: piping hot, crispy flaky puffs stuffed with vegetables/eggs/chicken/ meat. I used to love to bite into the crispy layers. Truthfully, I was never too crazy about the filling. It is the outer covering that would always tempt me. To this day, I enjoy the crispy flaky layers of the puff. I have always wanted to make it at home, but I never have that kind of time to make elaborate stuff. Then I came across these puff pastry squares in the freezer section at my local grocery store. I made vegetable and egg puffs using those squares and they took me back to my childhood.  Since then, I am hooked!! Now I have a constant supply of these puff pastry sheets in my freezer!






They are super easy and quick to make!! My husband loved them! My neighbor loved the puffs and so did all my friends! These puffs are a perfect solution for unexpected guests and also for get-togethers and parties like the Super Bowl this weekend! You can make the filling ahead of time. You can even stuff the pastry sheets and keep ready. All you have to do is stick it in the oven once your guests arrive or when you are almost ready to serve!! You will be hooked too!!



To make the puff pastry sheet from scratch click here for the recipe. Remember, home-made is much healthier than store-bought ones! This recipe is just a hack for people who don't have time!!







So, are you game-day ready??

Servings: makes 10 puffs



Prep time: 15-20 minsCook time: 10-15 minsTotal time: 30-35 mins


Ingredients:


Pastry squares 5x5 inches: 10 numbers
Coconut oil: 1 tbsp ( Any cooking oil may be used).
Onion: 1 diced fine.
Ginger garlic paste: 1 tsp
Green chilies: 2
Tomato: 1 medium
Red chili powder: 1/2tsp
Turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp
Garam masala: 1/2 tsp
Potato: 1 medium, boiled, peeled and diced.
Mixed vegetables: 2 cups ( I used frozen vegetable mix of peas, carrots & green beans)
Salt: to taste
Coriander leaves, chopped: 1 tbsp
Milk: 1/4 cup, for brushing; may not need all.

Method:


Thaw the pastry sheets by keeping it at room temperature and keep ready.



While the pastry sheets are thawing, get the filling ready.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a sauté pan or wok. Add the diced onion and ginger garlic paste. Sauté until the onion is lightly golden in color.

Add the chopped green chilies and chopped tomato. Sauté for 1-2 minutes.
Now add the turmeric powder, red chilli powder and garam masala powder. Sauté for 30 seconds.

Add the frozen vegetables, salt and let it cook for 5 mins or until the vegetables reach the desired tenderness.

Add the diced potatoes. Mix well. Let it cook for a minute or two until it all comes together.
Add chopped cilantro. Turn off the flame and keep aside.



Preheat the oven to 400 deg F.

Take a pastry square. 

Lay it flat on a plate/cutting board. Place 1-2 tbsp of the vegetable mixture on one side of the square.
Fold the square so that the ends are touching.
Press the edges together so that the pocket is sealed as shown in the picture. Keep the prepared sealed pockets/ puffs on a baking sheet.
Do the same with the remaining pastry sheets.


Keep all the prepared puffs on the baking sheet.

Brush the tops of all the prepared puffs with milk.

Place the baking tray on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until the puffs look nice and crisp.



Best when served immediately.



Enjoy!

Cooking made easy:


If you are not a pure vegetarian, you can beat an egg and brush the top of the puffs with the beaten egg. This gives your a better sheen when baked.

You can tansform these puffs into egg puffs, chicken or meat puffs.




To transform it into egg puff, while making the above filling, stop at the point where you add the vegetables and instead add boiled eggs that have been sliced into two halves.



For chicken puffs,  add shredded chicken or small bite size pieces of chicken and cook the mixture until the chicken is cooked well.

For meat puffs, add ground meat instead of vegetables and cook it thoroughly.

Tip for healthy living:


When you make food like these puffs from ready made puff pastry, limit your intake to just one. The puff pastries in general and especially store-bought one are high in calories due to the amount  of butter in it. Remember, home-made is anyway better than store-bought puff pastry sheets!

Food for thought :


On can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar. Hellen Keller




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