Thursday, May 15, 2014

Shepherd's Pie Made Healthy

Shepherd's Pie is one of my favorite European fares. I like it because it provides a balanced meal with carbohydrates, proteins and vegetables. It is an easy tasty one pot dish.

Traditionally, Shepherd's Pie is made by layering minced lamb meat with vegetables, topped by mashed potatoes. In America, minced beef is used instead of lamb and it is called as Cottage Pie. I have given a healthy twist to the Shepherd/ Cottage pie by replacing using minced turkey instead of beef/ lamb and replacing the mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower! Surprised?? Yes, mashed cauliflower. You cannot tell the difference! I have also topped it with a little mozzarella cheese for extra taste. You could absolutely skip the cheese. My hubby and kids love the cheese.

Here is the recipe for my Healthy Version of Shepherd's Pie!

Servings: 8


For the mashed cauliflower:

Cauliflower: 1 large head, florets separated and washed.
Whole milk or half & half: 1/4 cup
Butter: 1 tsp
Salt: 1/4 tsp
Pepper powder: 1/4 tsp
Fresh Parsley: 1/2 tbsp chopped

For the turkey layer:

Minced turkey: 1 lb
Onion: 1 medium chopped fine
Garlic: 2 cloves, minced
Ground pepper: 1/2 tsp
Salt: 1/2 tsp
Oregano: 1/4 tsp
Thyme: 1/4 tsp
Parsley : 1/4 tsp
Chilli powder: 1/4tsp ( for little bit of bite;))

For the vegetable layer:

Butter: 1 tsp
Salt: 1/2 tsp
Ground pepper: 1/4 tsp
Frozen mixed vegetables: 1 lb

Mozzarella cheese: 2-4 oz shredded it sliced.


Preheat the oven to 400 deg F.

For the mashed cauliflower:

Boil water in a 4 quart saucepan with 1 tsp salt.

Add the cauliflower florets into it and cook until it is well cooked ( soft and mushy when touched with a spoon), usually around  10-12 minutes.

Now drain the water and mash it well with a potato  masher. 

Now whisk in all the ingredients listed under 'for the mashed  cauliflower' and keep aside.

For the turkey layer:

Heat a wok/ frying pan on medium heat. 

Add 1 tbsp oil, chopped onions, garlic and sauté until the onions becomes slightly golden brown.

Now add the minced turkey, salt , pepper, chilli powder and herbs. 

Cook  until the turkey is well cooked, usually 15-20 mins. 

Turn off the flame and keep aside.

For the vegetable layer:

Melt butter in a frying pan/ saucepan on medium heat. 

Add the frozen vegetables , salt an pepper and let it cook until the veggies are tender. Usually around 10 mins.

Turn off the flame and keep aside.


Take a rectangular glass oven-proof pan ( I used pyrex 9"x11" ) and put the turkey layer on the bottom.

Now layer the veggies next and then the mashed cauliflower on top.

 Top it with shredded/sliced mozzarella cheese.

Place it in the center rack of the oven and bake it for 20-30 minutes until the cheese has melted and is golden brown.

Serve hot!


Cooking made easy:

In the above dish, you can skip the cheese entirely. When done the top layer of the mashed cauliflower will be browned.

You can add the mixed vegetables directly to the minced meat when the meat is halfway cooked. This would work  if you are using fresh vegetables. If you are using frozen, you would have to thaw it first and drain the extra water before adding it to the meat. If you don't drain the excess water, the meat layer will become runny!

Tip for healthy living:

Red meat has been found to be one of the aggravating factors for several health issues. Red meat consumption increases the uric acid levels in the body leading to increased pain in people with gout. Red meat is also supposed to be the cause for increased joint pain in patients with arthritis, especially rheumatoid arthritis. Red meat consumption also leads to increased cholesterol levels leading to heart problems, increased blood pressure and vascular issues like atherosclerosis causing blood clots and blood vessel blockage.All this results in reduced lifespan. Hence, it is best to avoid red meat and switch to healthy sources of meat like lean turkey, chicken and fish.

Food for thought:

Question everything. Learn something.  Answer nothing. Euripides

Sunday, May 11, 2014

My First Princess Doll Cake

This post has been long overdue! I had made this Princess Doll Cake for her birthday in March. She is at that age where everything is about princesses. So I decided to have a Princess theme for her birthday party. She could not make up her mind as to which is her favorite princess , hence, I decided to give all princesses a fair chance. She wanted a princess cake. I have recently ventured into baking and this gave me a good chance to test the waters a little more. I have very little baking experience. But being a mother, I wanted to give my baby girl her heart's desire. I had seen so many pretty princess doll cakes online! I decided that I will at least try to make a Princess doll cake. I started my extensive research regarding how to make a doll cake. I had to learn several things: 1. How to make the doll shape,2. How to ice a cake, 3. How to make buttercream icing, 4. How to decorate a cake, 5. Whether to use fondant or buttercream for the dress, 6.Different kinds of tips and their uses, 7.How to fill a icing bag.. Wow! There was a lot of learning to do... But I was determined. I am like a dog with a bone. Once I set my mind on something I eat, breathe, sleep with that agenda on my mind. I found out there are several ways one could make the doll shaped cake. You could bake one or two 9 inch round cake and another dome shaped cake in a 4-quart  oven-safe Pyrex bowl and then stack them together or just get the doll-cake bowl from Wilton and bake the cake in it. I didn't want to have too many unknowns in my doll-cake equation. I decided to go the easier route. I just went and bought a Wilton doll-cake pan and called it a day. I also decided to use ready made cake mix instead of making the cake from scratch. I chose the Pillsbury devil's food chocolate cake. As for the buttercream icing, I decided to make it from scratch as I knew that I would need a lot of icing! I also decided to use buttercream for the doll's dress as I didn't know the first thing about fondants! I looked at various designs of princesses online make with buttercream. But my daughter wanted Aurora. I decided to copy Aurora's dress. Funny, I didn't know how I was going to make the pleats on the dress!! As I was toying with the icing on the dress, my husband woke- up and happened to come into the kitchen. He saw me trying to make the pleats with a spoon and came to my rescue! Once he suggested an idea, I was able to do a decent job with the pleats on her skirt. Only regret is that the pink on the dress could have been a little deeper. Then again this was my first time coloring icing and I was apprehensive. Well, the end result was a surprisingly pretty Aurora and a ecstatic Kavya!

This is how I made the cake:

Servings: 12-15


For the cake:

Boxed cake mixes: 2( I used Pillsbury Devil's Food)
Eggs: 6
Water: 2 cups
Oil: 1 cup ( I used canola oil)

For the butter-cream icing:( to make 5 cups icing):

Confectioner's Sugar: 8 cups
Butter: 2 cups ( at room temperature)
Vanilla essence: 3 tsp
Milk/water: 4 tbsp

For decorating the doll:
Small edible pink beads: 24 nos


For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.

Assemble the dome shaped cake pan as per instructions.Prepare the cake pan by spraying non-stick spray. Keep it aside.

Prepare the cake batter as per instructions on the cake box.

Pour the cake batter into the cake pan until 2/3 full.

Place it on the center rack of the oven and bake for 70 mins at 350 deg F.

At the end of 65 mins, check if the cake is done by inserting a skewer into the center of the cake. If done, the skewer will come out clean. If not done, bake for additional 5 mins and check again. Repeat this in 5 min intervals until the cake is done.

Remove the cake out of the oven and let it cool on the cooling rack for 15 mins.

Next, slice the dome shaped top and level the cake.

Remove the cake out of the pan and let it cool down for at least another hour on the cooling rack before icing.

Place a thin layer of icing on the center of the cake board .When cooled, invert the cake onto a cake board.  The icing will keep the cake in place and prevent it from moving.

Crumb-coating the cake:

Take 1 cup of icing in a bowl and thin it. Now apply a coating of this icing to the above cooled cake.

Crumb-coating the cake makes it easier  to ice the cake.

Once you have applied the crumb coating, place the cake in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours so that the coating can set.

Icing the cake:

In the mean time you can prepare the icing. All icing is of medium consistency.

Take 4 cups of icing and color it light pink using gel color.

Keep one cup of icing white. Fill the white icing in a bag and set it ready with tip 101.

Using a spatula, apply a 1 inch thick coating of light pink icing. Using the back of the teaspoon create the pleats on her skirt.

Now color the remaining light pink icing into dark pink using more pink gel color. Fill it in a bag and fit tip 3.

Now using tip 3 make the bodice of the dress on the cake doll. Keep it aside and let it set for 30 mins.

In the mean time you can make the white ruffles at the hem of her dress. When done move the tip 101 to the icing with dark pink icing and make the next layer of ruffles. You can make as many layers as you wish. I had to improvise as I was running out of icing.Using Tip 3 make another layer of the arches above the ruffles.

Now stick the doll into the cake. Now do the dark pink of the dress around her waist. You could be as creative as you wish with the dress.

I then fixed the pink decorator sugar pearls around her dress.

My daughter gave me a small tiara/ crown that I could fit on her head . You could make the crown with card paper.

Voila ! the princess cake is ready!

 Let it set in the fridge until the cake is ready to be cut!

Cooking made easy:

You could make any Disney princess from the above method. I used the Wilton cake-doll that came with the set. If you want an authentic look, you could use the actual doll that is available in the stores ( as I did with my Tinker Bell cake). In this case you will have to wrap the doll in Saran Wrap and then insert the doll into the cake.

Tip for healthy living:

For naturally exfoliating your skin, make a home-made scrub by mixing together 1 tbsp oatmeal powder, 1 tbsp milk and 1/2 tsp honey. Mix it into a paste. With your fingers rub your skin in circular motion with your fingers. Wash off with lukewarm water. You will have naturally radiant skin.

Food for thought:

A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to  beat others. Ayn Rand

Monday, May 5, 2014

Meatless Monday Easy Soy Tandoori Curry

I just realized that it has been a week since I posted anything on my blog! Last week was so hectic. My kitchen was transformed into a mini-bakery in preparation for my very good friend's daughter;s birthday! I baked 4 dozen cupcakes, 5 dozen cake-pops and a beautiful Tinker Bell doll cake.I am tired but happy that I made somebody else happy!

Anyways, I first came across the soy tandoori curry dish when one of the group members from CAL, Sonal Gupta posted it. Soy nuggets are a staple in my household and we use it mainly in vegetable pulao as it contributes to our daily protein intake and my husband and I both like the taste of soy. I have not been using it for much else. I was thrilled when I saw this recipe and I penned a note to myself at the back of my mind to try this recipe soon.. For the longest, I didn't get a chance. Then couple other members posted pictures of the tried recipe and were raving about it. This gave me a new impetus to try it. So over the weekend I decided to make it for dinner. Hubby wanted vegetable pulao, so I made mixed vegetable-soy  pulao and cucumber-corn salad to go with my soy tandoori curry.

Now here is the interesting part. There is a reason why I renamed the dish "easy soy tandoori curry". When I opened up Sonal's recipe on her blog and started reading the recipe,I gave it a cursory glance and realized I had to marinate the soy nuggets for couple of hours. I was doing several weekend chores that evening, so  I marinated the soy nuggets as per her recipe and kept it aside for two hours. But as I started putting together the final dish together, I realized I didn't have several of the ingredients that she has used in her dish. I didn't have the onion- tomato paste and when I read her link as to how to make it, I didn't have the patience or energy to do it. I also didn't have any bell peppers. I have  always been a firm believer of " making the best of what you have". I decided to improvise on the recipe and make do with what I have readily available in my kitchen. The end result was a quick, yummy delicious soy tandoori curry with equally delicious soy-vegetable pulao and cucumber-corn salad. Apart from the marination, it took me one hour to get all three dishes ready and at the table!

So lets take a look at my version of the soy tandoori curry. You can find the original recipe here.

Servings: 5


Soy nuggets: 1 cup

For marinade:

Yogurt: 1/4 cup
Ginger garlic paste:1 tbsp
Turmeric: 1/2 tsp
Tandoori masala: 1 1/2 tsp ( I used MDH)
Salt: 1/2 tsp
Kasoori methi: 1/2 tsp

For the  curry:

Oil: 1 tbsp ( I used olive oil)
Onion: 1 medium, chopped into squares and separated
Ginger: 1 inch, cut julienne
Tomato: 1 cut into small squares.
Cumin seeds( jeera): 1/2 tsp
Chilli powder: 1/2 tsp
Garam masala: 1 tsp
Sping onion: 2 chopped
Kasoori methi: 1 tsp
Water : 1-2 cups
Salt : to taste



Boil 1 quart water in a saucepan. Turn off the flame.Add this to the soy chunks with a little salt. Let it soak for 30 mins. After 30 mins, drain the soy chunks, squeeze with your hands and remove the excess water. Place it in another bowl  and add the ingredients under for  marinade. Keep it aside for 2 hours or overnight.

The curry:

In a skillet/ sauté pan, heat oil on medium heat,add cumin seeds. 

When they splutter add the chopped onions. When the onions start wilting, add the chopped ginger, sauté for a minute and then add the chopped tomatoes. Sauté until the tomatoes are a little wilted.

Add the chilli powder and garam masala.

Now add the soy with the marinade and let it come to a gentle boil. 

Add the kasoori methi, spring onions.

Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Serve hot with rice/ pulao/ bread/ roti.

Cooking made easy:

At a very early age, my mother told me that anything with the right amount of salt and spice will taste good. I have kept that firmly grounded in my mind. Always make do with what you have in your kitchen/ pantry. Don't be scared to experiment. It might taste a little different than the original dish, but who knows??? You might come up with something even better! Once you are at ease in your kitchen and are not afraid of failing, cooking is a breeze.. I always say.. You win some.. You lose some. But, you will never know if you have not tried!

Tip for healthy living:

Soy is a great source of protein. It is one of the few plant-based foods that is a complete protein. What that means is that it provides all the required amino acids. It also has the highest protein content among plant-based sources. Soy nuggets and soy granules prove to be a good substitute for meat and ground meat due to its meat-like texture. Hence, it is more readily acceptable to non- vegetarians.

Food for thought:

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be. Kurt Vonnegut