Creating a blog was out of the question for a long time for me, as measuring everything in the kitchen was like biting into an eggshell. I enjoy cooking and don’t want to waste even a slightest bit of enjoyment in that small world of mine. But little did I know that everything will change, when my husband came home with the Oscar nominated film ‘Julie and Julia’( a real life story) where Julie Powell (part played by Amy Adams) challenged herself to make all the 524 recipes from Julia Child's cook book ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ and blogging all her experiences (The Julie/Julia Project). It was an inspiring movie. A few days later when we were discussing this casually with a friend of ours over tea…everything changed dramatically…..” How about you making at least half of it in one year? Not French but your own. 262 recipes that will inspire others and present it as a blog?” For a minute my mind traveled faster than light… With an experience as a helper in my mother in laws kitchen for 6 years followed by a three year everyday struggle to satisfy the palate of my foodie husband, if I cannot do it then why should I cook? But on the other side with an experience in English literature extending no more than expanding outline stories in English grammar class when I was 18 and two small kids that come in handy at times, will a commitment for the next one year work? Anyway my ‘cook's ego’ didn’t allow me to say no...

So my friends …here I am opening my recipe book, trying to perfect and present 262 recipes in the coming 365 days….A Challenge that will of course tastes good. Come.. Have a walk with me along my journey.. Cheering and inspiring….Forgiving and tolerating…Testing and tasting….for ‘A Tasty Challenge’

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My baby girl was born yesterday....but now she is 9!!!

My little girl celebrated her 9th birthday a few weeks before. Let me invite you guys to a small conversation that happened a few days before her birthday…
Me----- “Hey Leah, what do you want for your birthday?”
Leah--- “I can’t believe that you forget… You promised me that I can cook all by myself on my 9th birthday”
Me-----(In my mind) Yes, that promise happened a few months back… I said those words just to avoid her disturbing me in the kitchen while I was experimenting something… But I really thought that she will forget it until someone else, possibly her pesky little brother who selectively remembers and reminds everyone of anything that shouldn't be remembered and reminded, reminds her…
“Oh… are you sure that you want to do it? I will not help… I will not come near the kitchen… you will have to do everything by yourself…” (I have to make sure that I tried my best to make her drop the decision.)
Leah--- That’s exactly what I want… I don’t want anyone in the kitchen…. I want to cook by myself.
Me----O………….k…. (does that sound as unconvincing as I was then?)
So together we decided on the recipe… It is going to be a Brownie… from ‘A Tasty Challenge’. Together we made this Brownie a number of times in the past… But still I tried to impart a bit of hesitation in her mind…, mainly because I just can’t admit that my little girl has grown so much… I just can’t… It is not fair… she was born just yesterday…. I changed her diapers and put her to bed very recently… But as the conversation proceeded she convinced me that all these things happened 9 years ago…
Me----“So there is baking involved… you have to switch on the Oven… Will you do it?”
Leah---“Yes I will… You just stay there and see whether I am doing it right. That's it”
Me----O…..k… (I am still not sure about this whole idea; but it wont cost anything after all...)
Sure or not that day came and Leah was as determined as ever… And I have to say she pulled it off quite well…
I took a print out of my Brownie recipe and showed her where all the ingredients are…; left everything to herself and checked our smoke detector for proper functioning… you know.. just in case…)
I sat on the dining table, which is next to the kitchen and listened to Leah reading each and every sentence from the print out and making her own comment on the sentence as if she is 'The Next Food Network Star'… She even fired her little brother once, when he tried to sneak into the kitchen to swipe some Chocolate chips….
She measured, she mixed... I sat there at the table browsing....listening and smiling to the commentary from the kitchen....
She used a parchment paper on the bottom….
She poured the batter….
Her pesky brother volunteered to do the 'quality control'….
But I interfered when what started as a simple 'quality control' went wild….

After baking it came out good… But I was too skeptical about taking the brownies out of that pan… So I took a photo of it in the pan itself… I went back for more browsing while Leah let the Brownie cool down a bit….
But after sometime she came with this….
Then she cut it…; shared with her brother and us….
Oh forgot to mention… during this time, news went out that Leah is baking by herself and two of our friends with their families came to taste her Brownie… (Brownie tasting ended up in dinner and a long time of unlimited chatting!!!) Oh.. by the way....that painting on the table... Leah did it... I thought at least some of you would love to know...

Even though I started writing this post to portrait my daughter’s first attempt at cooking by herself, I would love you guys to sneak into her party too…

Usually we celebrate our kid’s birthday at home with some of our good friends, their kids, some home cooked food and a homemade cake of there preference… This time was also no difference…

For the first time in her life when Leah said she don’t want a Princess or a Fairy Tale character Cake, I realized with shock that my little princess is growing up… Her choice was a ‘swimming pool’ Cake... I sighed as she made her choice... she did not ask for a ‘High-Heeled Shoe Cake’ or a ‘Louis Vuitton Hand Bag’ Cake…. At least she is not a diva yet!!!

 It was a Rev Velvet Cale with a Cream Cheese filling and Butter Cream frosting... As you can see, I ended up covering the cake with fondant... Birthday Girl was more than happy to see my creation... and so were the guests...

Both of us were excited with the idea of an ‘all starters’ party’, as appetizers and soups being  her favorite… And this was the menu….

Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches and Egg Tea Sandwiches… (Most of our guests were not familiar with Smoked Salmon and hence we made an alternative too…)

Alligator Samplers… (It was actually fired Alligator with Indian spices…; It was my husband’s idea to incorporate something adventurous and he simply hated when I called them ‘Alligator Samplers’… he told everyone ‘Cheenkanni Varuthathu’!!!)
Amazingly it tasted just like Chicken and a four year old girl in the party went crazy (in a good manner) over it and ate right from the bowl where I kept it in bulk. (See, I got some good foodie friends!!)

Chicken Chilly…
Pav Bhaji…. (For easy handling I substituted Pav with Bread…)
Chemmeen Kozhukatta…

Salad with Vinegar, Salt and Pepper dressing... I think this goes well with Chicken Kebab

Chicken Kebeb
Fruit Trifle

If God allows, there will be more fabulous birthdays for my daughter, but I know I will never forget her 9th Birthday… when she convinced me that she can cook all by herself…

And I hope she will never forget it either…. Love you Leah... love you a lot....

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chicken Sliders

Recipe No: 289
This is a very easy and tasty appetizer that can be converted to a full meal with the addition of some Fries and a Salad. I made this with Chicken, but you can substitute it with any meat of your choice. With a hint of Chinese taste, this will satisfy any non vegetarian palate.
Ingredients                                            Makes 8
To make the Patties
  • Ground Chicken………...1 lb/ 450 grams (raw Chicken is a must)
  • Red Chilly Powder….....1/2 Teaspoon
  • Black Pepper powder...1/4 Teaspoon
  • Ginger Garlic Paste……1 Teaspoon
  • Coriander Leaves………1 Tablespoon (chopped fine)
  •  Salt to taste
To fry and make the sliders
  • Butter………………………2 + 2 Tablespoons
  • Oil…………………………..2 Tablespoons
  • Dinner Rolls………….…8 (I used Potato Rolls; but any small buns will do)
To make the Sauce
  • Onion chopped fine…..1/2 Cup
  • Garlic chopped fine…..2 big cloves
  • Ketchup…………………..2 Tablespoons
  • Chilly Garlic Sauce….1 Tablespoon (If not available, please use 1/2 Teaspoon Sambal Oelek.)
  • Worcestershire Sauce...1/2 Teaspoon
  • Dark Soy Sauce…….…..1 Teaspoon
  • Water……………………....1/4 Cup
Method of Preparation
  1. Mix all the ingredients to make the patties thoroughly. Divide it into 8 equal sized portions.
  2. Make each portion into a patty approximately the diameter of your buns. Keep them aside.
  3. In a wide pan on high heat, melt Butter and Oil together. Once heated, place the patties in a single layer and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the patties are nicely browned on one side.
  4. Turn them over and let the other side also brown for about 3 minutes. (By this time the patties will be mostly cooked through.)
  5. Once browned on both sides, remove the patties from the pan and keep them aside.
  6. To the remaining Oil (add a bit more if needed) add the chopped Onion and Garlic; sauté till slightly wilted.
  7. Add Ketchup, Chilly Garlic Sauce, Worcestershire Sauce, Soy Sauce and Water; mix well and slide the patties back into the sauce. (Add the liquid oozed out of the patties (if any) too.)
  8. Let it cook for a minute on both sides in the sauce or till the sauce is reduced considerably. (A bit of the remaining sauce is good.) 
  9. In the mean time, cut the dinner rolls horizontally into two, apply a light pat of Butter on the cut sides of both halves and toast them in another pan on high heat. (You have to toast them only on the cut sides.) Once slightly browned, take and keep them on a plate ready for the patties. Repeat this with all the Rolls.
  10. Place the patties on the bottom half of the Rolls and spoon the remaining sauce equally on top of the patties.
  11. Place the other half of the bun on top of the patty and serve hot.
  • Water is an enemy in making patties. So make the minced Chicken as dry as possible. (Meaning remove all the Water content with a kitchen tissue.)
  • The minced Chicken mixture is usually on the sticky side; so please rub your palms with Oil to reduce sticking.
  • The patties will be mostly cooked during frying itself, but by putting them in the sauce you can ensure that it is fully cooked. Before taking it off the stove, please check at least one patty for 'doneness'. The color of the meat will change from pink to almost white when fully cooked.
  • If you don't have  a pan to fry all patties at one time, please do it in batches.

Make it, enjoy the deliciousness and 
serve it to your family with love…

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Devil’s Food Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Recipe No: 288
This was the cake I made for the Valentine’s Day… The Cake together with frosting has a deep, rich Chocolate flavor, but the cake alone is very mild and on the less sweet side. I personally prefer the Cake alone with a light dusting of Powdered Sugar on top but as it was for an occasion, I dressed it up with this Chocolate Ganache.
Ingredients                              Makes one 8 inch Cake
For the Cake
  • Cocoa Powder………………....1/4 Cup
  • Instant Coffee Powder……...1 Teaspoon
  • Boiling Water…………………..1 Cup
  • All purpose Flour/ Maida….1 Cup
  • Baking Powder…………………1/4 Teaspoon
  • Baking Soda…………………….3/4 Teaspoon
  • Salt…………………………………a pinch (Avoid if using salted Butter)
  • Unsalted Butter……………….1/2 Cup/ 1 Stick
  • Sugar………………………………1 ¼ Cup
  • Eggs……………………………..…2
  • Vanilla Essence………………..1 Teaspoon
For Chocolate Ganache
  • Semisweet Chocolate Chips…7 oz/ 1 cup
  • Instant Coffee Powder………..1/8 Teaspoon
  • Heavy Cream…………………….1/2 Cup
  • Vanilla Essence/ Extract…….1/2 Teaspoon
Method of Preparation
To Make the Cake
  1. Dissolve Cocoa Powder and Coffee Powder in the Boiling Water and keep aside till it cools to room temperature.
  2. Sift together Flour, Baking Powder, Baking Soda and Salt well; keep aside till ready to be used.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350˚F/ 180˚C.
  4. Keep an 8 inch baking pan (I used a heart shaped pan) ready by applying a light coating of Butter and dusting it with some Flour. Alternatively line the pan with parchment paper and apply a light coating of cooking spray.
  5. Beat Butter and Sugar together until creamy.
  6. Add Eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition and mix in Vanilla during the addition of the second Egg.
  7. Add the Flour mixture and the Cocoa- Coffee solution alternating with each other, starting and ending with the Flour.
  8. Pour the batter to the prepared pan; level the top and bake in the middle of a preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or till an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  9. Once the Cake is out of the oven, let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes; take it out and finish cooling on a rack before icing.
To make the Ganache
  1. Heat Cream and Coffee Powder in a pan till it starts to simmer along the edges. (Do stir often to avoid skin from forming.)
  2. Pour this over the Chocolate Chips in a bowl and let it sit for 2 minutes. (Please be patient and let it sit. Stirring before that will make the Ganache grainy from partially melted Chocolate. If this happens accidentally, reheat it in a double boiler until smooth.)
  3. Stir to a make a smooth, glossy Ganache and mix in the Vanilla Essence.
  4. Let it refrigerate for 5-8 minutes before frosting.
To frost the Cake
  1. Spread the Ganache all over the Cake (I opted to spread it only on the top of the Cake.) and decorate it as you wish. (I used Powdered Sugar, some homemade sugar flowers and leaves and some store bought edible beads.)
  2. Serve it at room temperature. 
  • The quality of Cocoa Powder is very crucial for this recipe. So use a Dutch Processed Cocoa Powder or a really good Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder. I used Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder from Scharffen Berger. (Unlike the Dutch processed variety, this is slightly acidic and when used in recipes calling for baking Soda, which is an alkali, reacts together to create a leavening effect. So if in case you are using the Dutch processed Cocoa (which is neutral) please increase the amount of baking Soda to 1 teaspoon.
  • As Water has a tendency to expand when heated, measure it only after boiling.
  • Beat the Flour only till it is mixed. Over beating can result in a tough Cake.
  • Sudden lowering in temperature can cause the Cake to fall, so open the oven only during the last stage of the baking. Touch the top of the cake to feel the doneness and insert the toothpick only if you feel that it is done. (If you feel it is still watery, please don’t take chance by inserting the toothpick.)
  • Over baking can result in a dry Cake, so please don’t do it.
  • Increase the amount of Heavy Cream for a thin Ganache that can be poured over the Cake.
  • Refrigerating the Ganache for longer time will make it hard. So be careful with the time. If in case it hardens warm it slightly to make it soft again. (Don’t use high heat in this case as it may separate the Chocolate.)
  • As this Ganache is made in a spreadable consistency (thicker than the normal Ganache), it will become very hard on refrigeration. So if you are using Ganache to decorate, please don't refrigerate the Cake. If you don't feel like finishing the Cake within a day or two, do refrigerate; but let it thaw well and come to the room temperature before serving.

Make it, enjoy the deliciousness and
serve it to your family with love…