Friday, November 17, 2017

Black Forest Cake




My husband's birthday was in the recent past. I try to make birthdays special by making a cake from scratch for each of my family member. Even though we are not much of sweet eaters, my husband would be appreciative of a nicely made cake. I decided to make a Black Forest Cake as it is moist and delicious! Most importantly it is easy to make. This also happens to be one of the first cakes that I attempted 4-5 years ago when I first started baking. I must admit that it has been a learning curve and that I have learnt much since then about baking cakes.



So I made a 4-layer Black Forest cake with fresh cherries in between the layers and whipped cream frosting. I used the maraschino cherries in syrup for the garnish on top. I had only two 6 inch pans so I baked in them and sliced each cake into 2 layers. This batter would easily fill three 6 inch pans. If you do that you don't have to cut the cake into layers.  This batter would also be enough for two 8-inch pans, in which case you will have to slice the cake into 2 and then layer. I wanted something small and tall so I went with 6 inch pan. 



Without sounding boastful, I must admit that my family loved the cake! My kids called it the "best cake ever!" My husband ate 2 pieces and even the neighbor's kids who are picky enjoyed it! I am convinced that the cake was good! 



So without further ado, here is the recipe. The recipe has been adapted from this recipe here. 


Servings: 8-10 


Prep time: 45-60 mins Cook time: 30- 40 mins Total time: 75-100 mins 


Ingredients: 


For the cake: 

Flour: 2 cups 
Cocoa powder: 3/4 cup 
Instant coffee: 1 & 1/2 tbsp
Powdered sugar: 1 & 1/2 cups 
Baking soda: 1 & 1/2 tsp
Baking powder: 1 tsp
Salt: 1/4 tsp
Cooking oil: 1 cup
Vanilla essence: 1 tsp 
Milk: 1 cup
Hot water: 1 cup
Eggs: 2 large 

For the frosting: 

Whipping cream: 2 cups
Confectioners sugar: 2 cups 
Vanilla essence: 1 tsp 

For layering and garnishing:

Cherries: 1 cup
Sugar syrup: 1/2-1 cup 
Chocolate curls: 1/4 cup 

Method: 


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Place the bowl and beaters for the cream in the freezer to chill. 

Grease and line three 6 inch or two 8 inch trays with parchment paper and keep ready.

Dissolve the instant coffee in the hot water and keep ready.

Seive all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Mix well. 

In another bowl, beat the eggs well. To this add oil, vanilla essence, milk and mix. 


Now slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Add in the instant coffee and mix.Do not overmix.


Pour the mixture into the prepared pans until 3/4 th full. 


Tap the pans against the kitchen counter before placing it on the middle rack in the oven. Bake at 350 degF. for 30-40 mins or until a toothpick when inserted comes out clean. 



Take the pans out and let them cool on the kitchen counter for atleast 30 mins.

While the cakes are cooling, prepare the whipped cream. 

To make the whipping cream, take the chilled bowl and beaters out. To this add the whipping cream. Whip on medium until soft peaks emerge, around 3-4 minutes. 
Now add in the vanilla essence and the confectioners sugar little at a time. Whip for another 2-3 minutes.


Keep the cream back in the fridge until ready to frost the cake.

Assembling the cake:

Once the cakes are cooled, level each of the cakes. 


If you are using 2 pans, you will have to slice each cake into 2 layers. Keep the layers aside. 

Sprinkle sugar syrup on all the layers. This keeps the cake moist.

Take a cake circle ( the cardboard on which you intend to assemble the cake). Place some frosting on the middle of the cake circle. Place the first layer of cake. Place a large dollop of whipped cream on top of it. Using an angled spatula, spread the cream evenly. Now evenly distribute pieces of cherry on top of the cream. 



Place the next layer of cake and repeat the above process. Do this to all available layers until you have placed the last layer on top. 


Once the last layer is placed, frost the cake evenly in all directions. 


You can pipe peaks of whipped cream on top and make borders at the bottom. I used Wilton tip no: . Place cherries on top of the peaks.



Decorate the middle with chocolate shavings. If you wish you can decorate the sides of the cake with chocolate shavings too!! 



Refrigerate the cake until ready to eat. 



Enjoy!! 

I am bringing this to Angie's Fiesta Friday #198. Her co-hosts this week are two accomplished bloggers and my favorite people, Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju.com and Liz @ Spades, Spatulas and Spoons.


Cooking made easy: 


While baking it is good practice to make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature unless the recipes calls for a specific temperature. This includes the eggs too. 

Tip for healthy living: 


It is better to use as much natural ingredients as possible while cooking. This makes the food much healthier and nutritious. 

Food for thought: 


Silent gratitude isn't much to anyone. Gertrude Stein 



Please do share your thoughts. Your opinion matters!




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Monday, November 13, 2017

Veestro: Organic, plant-based meals , a Review







Ready to cook meal services are nothing new to me. There are several vendors out there who send 1-2 meal recipes with the exact ingredients prepackaged, to your doorstep. I have tried meals  from Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. It is definitely convenient as you don't have to go grocery shopping, you know what you are going to cook on a given day as you place your order atleast a week ahead of time. The ingredients are purported to be fresh and from the best sources and they are literally delivered to your doorstep. The flip side is that this service does tend to be a bit pricey and you still have to make time to cook the meals. I also feel bad that there is so much packaging that is required. 



When Veestro reached out to bloggers via Meatless Monday, to try their plant-based vegetarian food service, I was intrigued to say the least. I cook and eat vegetarian meals most of the time. I do not eat meat. I truly believe  that eating vegetarian food is a healthier way to live. Those who are used to eating meat in all their meals often find it hard to go vegetarian. I usually recommend beginning by switching to one vegetarian meal a day and then going to one vegetarian day a week. Meatless Mondays is a great way to do this. I was very happy when I was one of the bloggers selected to try their meals. 


A week later a big box was delivered to my doorstep with contents packed in a nice freezer pack. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that the meals were already cooked. All I had to do was heat them up as per package instruction and serve it. My expectation was to see ingredients, not prepared meals!! 



In the package that I was sent I had 4 meals and one drink. They were as follows: 

Tuscan Calzone
Veggie Lasagna 
Southwest BBQ chick'n
Golden Chickpea Stew
Hand Grenade



Tuscan Calzone




The Tuscan Calzone was a decent sized one. All I had to do was stick it in the oven for 18-20 mins and Voila!! It was nice and crusty with filling of vegan cheese, tofu and squash. 




Veggie Lasagna 





The veggie lasagna was made from Rice noodles, vegan cheese and  zucchini. It was truly delicious! I don't think that I could have made that at home!! My husband and I enjoyed it.




Southwest BBQ chick'n






The Southwest BBQ Chick'n meal came with a slice  of vegan chick'n breast , a side of fries and a side of sautéed vegetables ( squash and corn). It is a great vegan alternative to the regular BBQ chicken. 


Golden Chickpea Stew




The golden Chickpea Stew was made from chickpeas, quinoa and vegetables such as squash, potatoes and tomatoes. It was more like a curry which was right down my alley. I eat all these ingredients regularly but not cooked together. I make quinoa salad, quinoa dosa and quinoa pilaf but never tried it in a stew! 






Hand Grenade





I simply loved the hand grenade!!! The taste was refreshing with no added sugar. It was made up of apples, celery, kale, broccoli, kiwi and maqui Berry. 




All portions were decent sized and filling. The cooking instructions were simple and easy to follow. The ingredients were clearly listed at the back with the nutrition information. There was no ingredient that I did not know or couldn't pronounce. The meals tasted fresh and  were delicious. 

Veestro would be the place to go for Vegans. Each item listed above costs roughly around $10.00. You get everything that they promised and the convenience makes it worth it especially if you are only now going vegetarian/vegan and are at a loss as to how to substitute for meat! This might give you some ideas for vegetarian/vegan cooking too!!

Happy eating!!

I am sharing  this at Angie's Fiesta Friday #198. Her co-hosts this week are two accomplished bloggers and my favorite people, Judi @ cookingwithauntjuju.com and Liz @ Spades, Spatulas and Spoons.

Please do share your thoughts. Your opinion matters!



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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Gulab Jamun with gulkand.

Happy Diwali to all of you!!






 I wanted to make something my kids liked. My daughter loves gulab Jamun. This was also one of the first desserts that I made growing up. Gulab Jamun is nothing but dumplings in rose flavored sugar syrup. There are several ways gulab Jamun is made: using milk solids ( mawa/Chenna), using paneer, using flour, using milk powder, using potato or sweet potato too... I like the one with the milk solids the best.


 Today to make it quick and to use what is readily available, I have used milk powder and pancake mix!! Yes, most households have both of these in their pantry. I have made this interesting by adding more gulkand( a paste made from rose petals) and a little pink food color into the batter. It is festive season after all!! My daughter loved it!




I am sure you will like this easy recipe too.





Servings: 6-8 ( serving size: one per person) 


Ingredients: 


For the dumpling ( Jamun): 

Pancake mix: 1 cup
Milk powder: 1 cup 
Milk: 2 tbsp 
Gulkand: 2 tbsp ( optional)
Pink food color: 1-2 drops ( optional)


Ghee or oil: for frying and greasing hand. 

For the syrup:

Sugar: 2 cups
Water: 1 cup
Lemon juice: 1/2 tsp 
Rose essence: few drops ( optional)
Cardamom : 1-2 pods, peeled and seeds crushed.

Recipe: 


Syrup: 

Add water, lemon juice and sugar to a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Continue boiling until it reaches 1-string consistency. This is checked by taking a little syrup in a spoon. Now touch the pad of your index finger to the syrup. Make a pinch with the thumb. While trying to separate the thumb and index finger, you should see a string formed by the sugar syrup. Then the sugar syrup is ready. Turn off the flame. Add rose essence and cardamom powder. 

The dumpling( Jamun): 

Add the pancake mix, milk powder, gulkand and food color to a bowl. Using few drops of milk at a time, make a soft dough but enough to roll into a ball. The dough shouldn't be too soft or too hard. Do not overknead. Pinch a teaspoon of the dough and roll it between grease palms into small oval shaped ball. Do this with all the available dough. 

Heat ghee/oil in a kadai/wok until just hot. Do not make it very hot as the Jamun will burn. If the oil is cold, it will become very oily. Deep fry all the jamuns. The jamuns should puff up a little upon frying. Drain on paper towels. Immediately add it to the hot syrup. 

Let the Jamun sit in the syrup for atleast an hour. They will atleast double in size. If they don't then something was wrong with your batter.

Can be served cold or at room temperature. 
Refrigerate for later use.

Enjoy! I am bringing this to Angie's Fiesta Friday #194. Her cohosts this week are Petra @ Food Eat Love and Vanitha @ Curry and Vanilla.

Cooking made easy: 


Upon frying if the Jamun is too hard, just steam it for a few minutes and add it to the hot syrup. 

Tip for healthy living: 

Deep frying in ghee/clarified butter is a healthier option than in oil as the ghee takes longer to smoke or chemically disintegrate when compared to the oil. 

Food for thought: 


The actions of men is the best interpreters of their thoughts. James Joyce 



Please do share your thoughts. Your opinion matters!


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Friday, August 4, 2017

Cherry Iced Tea



It is sweltering hot here. Summer tends to be like that here. Sometimes I wonder if we especially feel it more because we don't have hot weather all year long! We wait for summer eagerly and then we are too hot! We are always looking for ways to cool down, which ends up being something cold to drink. I often feel that people end up drinking calories without even realizing it! All the store-bought or prepackaged drinks are laden with sugar and fat! I look for healthier, low calorie drinks to keep my family and myself cool. That's why I prefer to make the cooling beverages at home. Of course, water is the best way to stay hydrated, but sometimes, people want more than just water.





 I personally drink more of water than anything else! For those other times, I make varieties of lassi, smoothie, lemonade, daiquiri etc. This summer, I seem to be in the mood for iced tea! I have been making a lot of fruity iced teas! For some reason, I used to think making fruity iced tea was a chore! But believe it or not, it actually isn't quite so time-consuming and is quite easy! The only time consuming part is making the fruit syrup. The rest is a breeze. My way of combating this issue is by making the syrup when I am cooking other stuff in the kitchen or doing chores in the kitchen. You can make the syrup and keep it handy in the refrigerator to make the tea anytime you wish! The inspiration for my recipe is this recipe that I came across..





Make this tea and keep it in the refrigerator. You and your guests will both be happy!





Servings: 6-8



Prep time: 10 minsCook time: 30 minsTotal time: 40 mins



Ingredients:


For the syrup:
Cherries: 2 cups, pitted
Sugar: 2 cups
Water: 4 cups
Lemon zest: from 1 small lemon  ( optional)

For the tea:
Tea bags: 3-4 ( I used Lipton teabags)
Water: 500ml ( may need more for the pitcher).
Mint leaves: for garnish, 1-2 leaves per glass ( optional)
Ice cubes: 2 trays ( may need more depending on the size of the ice)


Method:


For the syrup:


Take the pitted cherries, sugar, lemon zest and water in a saucepan. Bring this to a boil. Reduce the flame and cook it for 15-20 mins or until the cherries have softened. Using a potato masher, mash the cherries as much as possible. Continue boiling for another 10-15 mins mashing the cherries in between.

Now strain it using a strainer. Let it cool. Pour the strained syrup into a pitcher or in a jar if you plan to make the tea at a later time.

For the tea:

While the syrup is cooking, you can prepare the tea. To do this, boil 500 ml water in a pot. Once the water comes to boil, add 3-4 tea bags depending on how strong you want your tea. Let it steep for 4-5 mins. Turn off the flame. Cover and keep aside to cool down with the tea bags in it.

Serving the tea:

Add both the tea and the syrup into the serving pitcher. Add 1 tray of ice to it. Garnish with mint leaves. Check for the sweetness. You can add sugar /honey /sweetener if you wish for more sweetness.

Take serving glasses, fill it with ice cubes until half-way. Pour the tea on top of the ice cubes to fill it the rest of the way.




Serve!



Enjoy! I am bringing this to  my dear friend Angie's Fiesta Friday#183. If you haven't been to her fiestas, you are truly missing something!! Her 
cohosts this week are Sarah @ Sarah’s Little Kitchen and Shinta @ Caramel Tinted Life.


Cooking made easy:


You can double the ingredients and make a bigger batch of syrup and keep it in the refrigerator. It stays good for 7-10 days.
The tea when made stays fresh for 3-4 days.

Tip for healthy living:


Homemade beverages are much better than store-bought ones as not only the amount of sugar in them can be controlled but there are no additives/preservatives in them.

Food for thought:

When mind is weak, the situation is a problem; when mind is balanced, the situation is a challenge and when the mind is strong, the situation is an opportunity. Unknown

Please do share your thoughts. Your opinion matters!



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