Jul 29, 2009

Carrot cake with raspberry cream cheese frosting

My maiden entry for Rosie and Maria's Sweet and Simple Bake blog was a delight to make not to mention it was literally sweet and simple. I used store bought raspberry cream cheese frosting instead of the one M & S had on their blog. Mainly because my 3 year old eats with his eyes and as I thought he did like the purple frosting. Not to mention the M&Ms I put on top. Tushar and Jr. finished off a slice each in no time and were ready for more!
If you want the recipe for traditional cream cheese frosting, visit Maria and Rosie's blog.


1 1/2 cups self rising flour
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups shredded carrots
2 eggs
5 oz vegetable oil (I used corn oil)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp of cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
4 oz raisins
4 oz chopped pecans


Beat the eggs and combine the oil, sugar, carrots, raisins and pecans. Sift all the dry ingredients and mix with the wet ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 300 degree. Oil and line with parchment paper a 9 by 5 loaf tin. Pour the batter into it and smooth the top.
Bake for 40 – 50 minutes till a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Frost with store bought raspberry cream cheese and your choice of sprinkles or in my case with M&Ms.
I am getting ready to go for a vacation with a dear friend in Atlanta. I will be back in a week. Till then stay cool and have fun.

Jul 28, 2009

The space between us and mint chai

I was on hold for a while for Thrity Umrigar's The Space Between Us and got the book yesterday. Since I was already past the deadline to submit this review I stayed up late to finish off the book. Well, the delayed deadline was not the only thing that kept me up. The book grips you with the trials and tribulations of two women from different strata of society.
Sera Dubash, a Parsi upper middle class housewife, is haunted by the demons of her tumultuous marriage with a physically and mentally abusive husband and an equally "monster" of a mother-in-law. The aging Bhima, has worked for the Dubash's for a long time and is not only trusted with cooking and cleaning the house but is also a confidant of Sera.

The two women live in worlds as apart from each other as a silk sari and a torn, faded cotton one. But they share an inexplicable bond over cups of mint tea which Sera likes light and milky and Bhima prefers strong and sugary.
Thrity weaves a beautiful tale of the two women who have been betrayed by the men in their lives and their only hope and reason for living is their progeny. For Sera it is the promise of a grandson her daughter, Dinaz, is carrying inside her. Bhima's light at the end of the tunnel is her intelligent college going grand daughter, Maya, who, hopefully, will escape the squalor of the slums.

The story comes to a head when 17 year old Maya gets pregnant with the handsome but callous Feroz, Dinaz's husband. Bhima's and Sera's loyalties towards each other and their families are tested when the secret comes out in the open.
Thrity shines a bright light on the arrogance of the rich, the tenacity of the poor, the sense of entitlement that comes with money and the desperation of having no money.
Is it any wonder the book kept me up till I finished reading it? A couple of cups of mint tea helped along the way. Now, if only I had the batata vada with chutney on the side to go with them. Hmmm...
I had never made mint tea before but gave it a try and here's the recipe.
2 cups water
1/4 cup milk
4 tsp sugar (or to taste)
2 tsp tea leaves (i used a mix of Vagh Bakri and Brook Bond Red Label)
4-5 mint leaves
Combine all the ingredients except the mint leaves. Boil till the sugar dissolves and the bubbling liquid turns a reddish brown color.
Add the mint leaves and boil for another minute. Turn off the heat and strain into tea cups.
Sip the minty goodness.

PS: I would like to nitpick just one tiny point. For a talented writer like Thrity I did not expect to read the word 'unconscious thought' when she meant 'subconscious thought'. There is a huge difference between the two words. The former means comatose or passed out while the latter means intuitive. And she used the phrase not once but twice.

Jul 27, 2009

Christmas in July

And my 50th post!

I received my first Christmas present at the age of 28, eight years ago. My dear friend Erin and I had met earlier that year at a memoir writing course at the local community college. We had kept in touch after the completion of the course and by the time Christmas arrived that year we were good friends. She had been to dinner at our apartment a couple of times and had noticed we didn’t have any cloth napkins or napkin rings.
I, of course, knew about them but did not realize their importance in American table etiquette. I was used to the ‘eating with your hands and washing them under the tap’ kind of etiquette. But that cold, December morning when I opened Erin’s carefully wrapped box, I was delighted to find four pretty Moroccan napkin rings and four maroon cotton napkins to put them in.

I don’t get a lot of occasion to use them (maybe three or four times a year) but I cherish them with all my heart. They are not only pretty but the thoughtfulness behind them is so characteristic of Erin. She has since then always given the most thoughtful presents not only to me but to my son with whom she has a special bond. I only hope the presents I give her every year for her birthday are as thoughtful.

Erin’s birthday, incidentally, comes in July and this time round I think I found the perfect present for her. While waiting for a friend in nearby downtown Main Street, I came across a cute little shop whose owner made custom necklaces and pendants. I came across a silver leaf pendant that said “I belong to Erin.” The shop owner strung a wire on the pendant and put it in a pretty little silver box.
My 50th post along with the pendant goes to Erin. Wishing you a happy birthday Erin and hoping the rest of the year turns out as great as the first half.

Jul 25, 2009

Potting around the garage - II

In my earlier post I mentioned one of my goals was to go back to potting or throwing pots . I miscalculated my potter's guild meeting and reached there a week early. I can't wait for this Wednesday to go and meet all the wonderful artists that comprise the guild.
Meanwhile, I cleaned out the tandem garage space we had decided for my studio. There were lots of cobwebs on the walls and some twenty dead bugs on the window sill. I cleaned all that up and took stock of my clay supply.
I had two 25lb bags of clay in a hard cheese state. Early on, when I started taking pottery lessons, the whole class was taught the basics of how to reclaim clay. Bone dry clay is easier to reclaim. You just have to immerse it in water and let it turn to mush. After a few days, dry out the excess water from the mush by slapping it on plaster boards.

Cheese hard clay, which I had, is a little bit trickier to reclaim. You have to cut the block in lots of layers, poke holes in them, layer them on top of each other while spraying water on each layer. The layers thus reassembled have to be wrapped up in plastic and left to marinate and soften for at least a week or two. Which is exactly what I did with mine.
Next week I go to Atlanta to spend some time with one of my best friends, S. When I come back the clay will be waiting for me and I for the clay.

Jul 24, 2009

Whole Wheat Herb Triangles

I reached the TPSG meeting place and found plenty of parking. I had reached a week early. The meetings are held on last Wednesday of the month and not on third as I had thought. I felt a bit stupid but hey, that is not the most stupid thing I have done in my life.
On my way back, I decided to tackle Madhuram’s Whole Wheat Eggless Baking challenge on reaching home. The recipe for these whole wheat Herb triangles is from The Low Fat Cook’s Companion, a Hermes House publication.

The measurement of the ingredients is simple enough to be halved, which is what I did.

1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup flour
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp chili powder (I used 1 tsp)
1/8 cup of soft low fat margarine (I used butter)
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (I used mint, rosemary, and cilantro)
½ cup skim or 1 % milk
½ tbsp of sesame seeds

Put the whole wheat flour in a mixing bowl and sift the remaining dry ingredients.
Rub in the soft butter and add the herbs and milk. Mix quickly to a soft dough and transfer to a lightly floured surface.
Knead briefly or the dough will become tough.
Roll out to a 6-in round and place on a lightly greased baking sheet.
Brush lightly with water and sprinkle evenly with the sesame seeds.
Carefully cut the dough round into 8 wedges, separate and bake in a 425 degrees preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack to cook. Eat fresh out of the oven with butter or cold with some soup.

Jul 21, 2009

Potting around the garage

Four months ago when I started this blog, it was not only with the intention of writing down moments of my life as a mother, a cook and a homemaker but also to chart my progress as a potter (it says so in my blog description).
I started throwing pots (that is ceramic jargon for making pots not breaking them) about eight years ago. It started as a hobby class in the local community college but I loved the process of creating pots and bottles and vases out of clay so much I never stopped throwing till three years ago. My adorable son was born and between raising him, two long trips to India and my soccer mom schedule, I never really got around to sit on the wheel.

Last year Tushar bought me a potter’s wheel and we set it up in the garage. A neighbor helped us put up shelves and tidy up the place, but it was either too hot or too cold to work in the garage. Somehow a year has passed and I am writing this post with the intention that by next month I will start throwing again (Fingers crossed).

Today, I dragged out from the garage two boxes filled with my earlier pots and decided to photograph them, as an inspiration/ reminder that I need to start potting (throwing) again.
Tomorrow, I attend a Texas Potters and Sculptures guild meeting and get to meet fellow potters. They are a creative bunch and some have been potting for years. Hopefully with the encouragement, guidance and support of these like minded people, I’ll start potting within the next month.
Will keep you updated.

Jul 19, 2009

Sol Kadhi for the soul

My earliest memory of sole kadhi is of my Kaki (aunt) squeezing the coconut milk out of grated coconut while kokams soaked in warm water in a bowl. She was born and brought up in Bomaby and to this day she makes the best sol kadhi and fish fry in our family. I remember drinking glass after glass of it when we went to her home for dinner.
Years later, as a single girl working in Bombay, India, I found another outlet for seafood and sol kadhi – Gomantak or seafood restaurants. For a couple of years, our Indian Express offices moved to Lower Parel (W) and we had a couple of hole in the wall Gomantaks in its maze of alleys. Since Lower Parel has a lot of mills and advertising agencies, these Gomantaks were frequented by the mill workers and a lot of junior level advertising employees. And once we moved there, my colleagues and I too became regulars at the nearby Gomantaks.
For me, given a choice between a thali and a fried Bangra, I always chose the bangra accompanied by at least two glasses of sole kadhi. It cost me about Rs 25, about 12 years ago and it was a bargain even in those days.

After coming to the US, sole kadhi slowly slipped out of my mind, mainly because it is hard to find fresh Bangra or good quality kokam. Four years ago when my in-laws were visiting from India, my MIL was fascinated with the ready availability of coconut milk, even though it is canned. In fact, she liked the thickness and taste of it better than going through the process of extracting it from grated coconut. We decided to make sole kadhi as a surprise for my FIL, who had grown up drinking it on the coastal town of Honavar but had not had it in years since moving to Gujrat. Here’s the recipe we came up with and it is pretty close to my Kaki’s as well as the Gomantak’s recipe.
1 can coconut milk
1 can water
5-6 kokum
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp of cumin powder (optional)
1-2 green chillies
Sugar to taste
Salt to taste

Soak the kokum in ¼ cup of warm water for at least 30 minutes. The water will turn a lovely lavender color. Squeeze the kokum out and retain the water.
In a blender, combine the kokum pulp with the rest of the ingredients and blend. The kadhi will assume a pink hue* especially if the kokum is fresh.
Serve chilled.
*The only kokums I am able to get in the US are dry and so I never get the lovely pink color in my kadhi.
I am sending this sol kadhi for the soul to PJ's Go Nuts event and also to RCI -- Udipi and Manglor event.
RCI-Udupi & Mangalore

Jul 16, 2009

Roasted Red Chili Peanuts

Bowl: Ikea
Place Mat: World Market
Peanuts: Sprouts Farmers Market
Taste: Spicy hot!
Entry: Jugalbandi's Click: Bi-Color event

Jul 15, 2009

Exploring the British isles beyond Tandoori Nights

Vegan Spotted Dick

The closest I have come to the British culture is speaking Brit English and watching Black Adder, Fawlty Towers, Are You Being Served? and Tandoori Nights. A couple of years ago our local PBS channel started showing Coupling, which is a much funnier and very risqué version of the American series Friends.
As much as I enjoyed the Brit comedies, I did not know much about the British cuisine mainly because I never got an occasion to do so and I stay in the US. Although, I suspect the Indian vegetable sandwiches are inspired by the English petite tea sandwiches which are a thinner and much blander version of our loaded with green chutney and cucumber, onions and boiled potatoes sandwiches.
Last week, I had to sit up and take notice of British cuisine when Vaishali of Holy Cow announced her IVW:British event. Since, it is a vegan world at Vaishali’s blog; the challenge was to find a recipe which did not have eggs, meat or dairy in any form. A tough one since British food mostly consists of all these.
My first thought naturally was to take the easy way out and make the thinly sliced cucumber sandwiches I mentioned before. But then I like a challenge, a dessert and a good laugh, so when google turned up Spotted Dick as one of the popular English desserts, I had to make it. It had eggs, cream and something called suet flour and is typically eaten with custard which may or may not be cooked with it.
There were as many recipes as innuendos and tongue in cheek references to its origins. None of the recipes, however, were adaptable to be converted into a vegan version. One day, looking through my 1000 Vegetarian Recipes book, I found a simplified low-fat version called The New Age Spotted Dick.

I had all the ingredients in my pantry and I decided to omit the sauce since the cake/ pudding in the picture looked light and airy. My instincts were right. The recipe calls for 2 eggs which for the vegan version I substituted with flaxseed powder whisked in water.

1 cup raisins
½ cup corn oil, plus a little extra for brushing
½ cup superfine sugar
1/3 cup ground almonds
½ tsp flax seed powder whisked with 1/2 cup of water (In place of 2 eggs)
1 ½ cups self—rising flour

In a pan, boil the raisins with ¼ cup of water. Remove from heat and let steep for 10 minutes before draining the excess liquid.
Whisk the oil, sugar and ground almonds until thick and syrupy. It should take about 8 minutes on medium speed with an electric whisk.
Add the flax seed water and mix for another minute. Combine the flour and raisins. Stir into the mixture.
Line an 8 inch cake pan or 4 cup heatproof bowl with parchment paper and oil it. Transfer the sponge mixture to the pan and bake in a preheated oven at 340 degree for about 30 to 40 minutes till a toothpick comes out clean.
Lay a piece of parchment paper across the top of the pudding if it starts to brown too quickly. Let cool for 5 minutes before turning* on to a serving plate.
*The cake is very delicate and may break if not taken out carefully, the way mine did.

The spotted dick turned out moist and delicious even without the sauce. But if you want to try it with the sauce, here’s the recipe. It calls for skim milk which for a vegan version could be substituted with soy milk. But I am not sure how it will turn out.

½ cup chopped walnuts
2/3 cup ground almonds
1 ¼ cup skim milk
4 tbsp granulated sugar

Put all the sauce ingredients into a pan. Bring to a boil, stir and simmer for 10 minutes.
Transfer the sponge mixture to a 4 cup/ 1 liter heatproof bowl, greased with oil, and pour on the hot sauce.
Bake in a preheated oven at 340 degree for about an hour or until well risen. Lay a piece of parchment paper across the top of the pudding if it starts to brown too quickly.
Let cool before turning out on to a serving plate. The sauce is in the center of the pudding and will spill out when the pudding is cut.

The Spotted Dick also goes to DK's AWED-Britain event, hosted this month by Simran of Bombay Foodie .

Jul 13, 2009

The 3/50 Project

Four years ago, when we moved to our new house, we started finding a lot of spiders and bugs crawling in and around our house. A neighbor explained that since our area was still getting built, every time the ground was dug for a new foundation, bugs would escape and find new haven in already built houses.
I am a non-violent person but here in the great state of Texas, some spiders, like the Black Widow, can be poisonous. So we did some research and hired Jim, who ran First Step Pest Control. Jim lives in our area and he is courteous, friendly and has competitive rates. He is always there when we need pest control taken care of in between his quarterly treatments and we haven’t regretted hiring him all these years.
When Alicia, who has an itsy blog La Alicia , recently posted about the 3/50 project , it made me think of Jim. The basic premise, according to Alicia and 3/50, is to support local economy by patronizing locally owned independent businesses. By spending about $50 every month on three local businesses we can boost our local economy. In a recent Time magazine article, researcher David Boyle of New Economics Foundation (NEF), a London think tank, said, “Money is like blood. Local purchases recirculate it, but patronize mega-chains or online retailers and it flows out like a wound.”
Another local business we regularly go to is the German bakery Bread Haus . The owners, Mark and Petra, make gluten free, yeast free, eggless organic breads and have been in business for the last twelve years, thanks to a loyal clientele.
Green Mama’s is an organic nursery we also patronize. They sell organically grown plants and herbs and the staff is knowledgeable about the organic fertilizers and other products in the store, unlike the national home improvement chains.
So, next time you go through your neighborhood or nearby downtown, take a closer look at the local retailers. If possible, patronize them. You never know what treasure you may find.
So what three or more local stores are you going to patronize?

Jul 12, 2009

Adding on to the recipe box

Vaishali’s Baghare Baingan

I am not a big fan of baingan (eggplants) but when Vaishali of Holy Cow! posted her recipe for Baghare Baingan , I had to try it. It had sesame seeds, coconut milk and peanuts which I love. Eggplant is also something Tushar likes a lot and I don’t cook often enough for him. Since I also love Tushar a lot, I decided to make the baingan Vaishali--style and find out if I liked them as much as my better half does. Well, I wasn’t surprised when not only did Tushar and I like it but our friends visiting from Houston for the weekend also couldn’t have enough of it. I just made three modifications and one omission to Vaishali’s recipe.
Modification No. 1: I used 1 tbsp of coriander cumin powder instead of 1 tbsp each of coriander powder and cumin powder.
Modification No 2: I added a whole can (14 oz) of coconut milk instead of ¼ cup. Hey, I like coconut, what can I say.
Modification No 3: Instead of tamarind pulp, I added 2 tbsp of tomato puree.
Omission: I omitted poppy seeds (khus khus) because I ran out of it.

Thanks to you Vaishali this finger licking recipe is now an integral part of my recipe box.

Jul 9, 2009

Srikhand + Aamras = Amrakhand

According to my taste palette whoever invented amrakhand was a genius. It is one of the best combinations of yogurt and mango your taste buds get to experience in the hot months of summer.
Yogurt sets quickly in hot weather and mangoes are plentiful. Leftover milk is made into yogurt, transferred to a thin cotton cloth and tied and hung over a hook overnight. A bowl underneath catches the whey. Next day the thick yogurt is whipped with sugar, cardamom powder and nuts. Srikhand is ready to be eaten.
Of course, that was not enough for our culinary ancestors so they took some mango pulp and mixed it with the hung yogurt. And I am glad they did because they gave us Amrakhand.

If gods were sitting down for a meal, I am sure they were having Amrakhand as one of the side dessert. So offering a small prayer for the universe and feeling a little bit closer to the god's gastronomy, I send my happy mood to Nithya's FIC Express Your Mood , originally started by Sunshinemom .
This side dessert of the gods is also my second entry to Srivalli’s Mango Mela .

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Jul 7, 2009

Few Weddings and a Chutney (Till Kuttaa)

I have always enjoyed attending weddings especially the ones in my family. Every time one of my numerous cousins would get married our whole family would converge to participate and help in the wedding preparation. While the kids were busy running around and the bride-to-be shopping all over town, my mom and aunts would gather in the kitchen and cook food while catching up on family gossip. Through all those scrumptious meals the one constant for me was my mom’s sesame and peanut chutney or till kuttaa as it is called in Maharashtrian households. She would make a big jar of it and everyone had it by the spoonful with their meals. It is also a dining table staple in our house the rest of the year as well.

It is one of those things you get so used to you never pay much attention to it -- till you have to make it. When I decided to enter Think Spice – Sesame event, hosted by Padmaja and originally started by Sunitha , I immediately thought of my mom’s sesame chutney. Of course, my mom always eyeballed the ingredients so all I could get from her over the phone was “a handful of seasame and a bowl of peanut, some red chili and some grated coconut.” I experimented with different proportions of peanuts and sesame till I found the right match. Here’s my mom’s sesame peanut chutney.
Sesame Peanut Chutney

1 cup peanuts, roasted and crushed
¼ cup sesame seeds
4 tbsp shredded dry coconut
1 clove of garlic (optional)
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste


Dry roast the sesame seeds on low heat till they start to pop. Separately dry roast the shredded coconut till it turns a light brown color.
Let the sesame seeds and coconut cool down. Grind all the ingredients in a mini food processor or blender to a coarse consistency.
Caution: Do not grind it too much or the oils from the sesame, peanuts and coconut will make the chutney lumpy.
The chutney will keep in an air tight jar for up to two weeks if you don’t finish it off first.

This chutney also goes off to Pavani of Cook's Hideout who is hosting JFI -- Peanuts this month, originally started by Mahanandi .

Jul 5, 2009

The Replacement

Eight years ago, I fell in love with a pepper mill on the first twist of the handle. I remember the crisp, winter afternoon when the waiter approached our table and asked if I would like an extra dash of pepper on my pasta. I had no idea what he meant, but said yes anyway. The fresh whiff of cracked pepper aroused my culinary senses and the very next day I went out and bought my first pepper mill. It was a transparent plastic bottle, with the grinder in the bottom and a salt shaker attached on top. I would grind the pepper on eggs, popcorn, in curries and vegetables. Just about everything I could imagine that would go well with pepper got a dash of pepper. I could adjust it to produce fine to coarse powder and everything in between. Till the mill ran out of pepper and I had to refill it.
I am not the most dexterous person in my house and to fill the mill with tiny peppercorns was, to put it politely, a pain in the corn. However, I couldn’t part with my beloved pepper mill. After all, I only had to refill it once a month. I could deal with it.
The cycle went on till last week, when a twist of the mill produced not only pepper powder but chunks of plastic. My pepper mill was dead and I knew it. I quietly gathered up the plastic pieces, emptied the peppercorns, wrapped the mill in paper and dropped it in the trash can. I stood over the can in silence for two minutes and came back inside. I couldn’t bring myself to go to a store for a week to look for a replacement. Tushar and I started using our mortar and pestle to grind pepper. But it wasn’t the same.
Finally, I took a deep breath, resolved to go out and shop for a new pepper mill. At the local discount store, I browsed a couple of pepper mills and ended up buying a pair of shoes and a toy train for my three year old. I popped into the local BB&B next door to return a pair of curtains and there on the third aisle sat the pepper mill of my dreams.
Unlike its predecessor, it had a screw top to fill the peppercorns; the grinder was on the top instead of the bottom, so there were no leftover pepper crumbs on the counter. It didn’t have a salt shaker, which was just fine with me. I didn’t use the one on the earlier one either. This was perfect.
I checked it out and now I am grinding the peppers again. Not to talk ill of the departed but I don’t miss it. May it RIP.

I believe in silver linings, light at the end of tunnel... You get my drift. A couple of days ago, when I was mourning the loss of my beloved pepper mill, Jyoti sent me this lovely award, my first ever. Thank you Jyoti, I will remember this forever.

Pepper Grinder on Foodista

Jul 2, 2009


Need I say more?

Jul 1, 2009

Dislike bananas; Love banana chips

Banana Walnut Bread

Very few people dislike bananas and I am one of them. So why would I make a bread out of ripe, old bananas? Well, I wanted to see if I would like them in bread the way I love snacking on banana chips. Also, it was another opportunity to entre Mena’s Banana bread recipe on Tried and Tested being hosted by Kitschow . I love Meena’s Hooked on Heat blog and though she has not written since Dec of 2008, being busy with writing a cookbook, it is an adventure to try her different recipes.

I have not modified the recipe in any way but have substituted pecans instead of almonds and also added ¼ cup of semi sweet chocolate chips*.

1 cup all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup butter
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup dry shredded coconut
1/2 cup pecans or almonds
¼ cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a loaf pan on all sides.
Melt the butter in the microwave and add flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Stir to mix.
Add the mashed bananas and mix to make a smooth batter.
Stir in vanilla extract, pecans, coconut and chocolate chips.
Pour in the pan and bake for 30 minutes or depending on your oven, till a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.
Serve with tea or as an after dinner dessert. The bread is not too sweet, loaded with banana flavor and tastes yummy. Yes, I liked the banana flavor in the bread.

This banana bread also goes to Madhuram's Low Fat Eggless Baking event.

*Note: If you add chocolate chips, the toothpick may come out coated with melted chocolate. In that case insert in another part of the cake.

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