Friday, May 31, 2013

Comfort Food Fix by Ellie Krieger. Cookbook review



I'm a sucker for wholesome American comfort food. Place a bowl of Mac and cheese in front of me, and watch me follow you like a puppy. Or give me a piece of that pumpkin pie and you'll know who my loyalties will lie with for the rest of my life.

Except good old fashioned American food - Southern or Tex-mex - isn't for the faint-hearted. There's plenty of cream, sugar, cheese and butter in all the cooking. And this is exactly where Ellie Krieger comes to your rescue.

Ellie Krieger is the host of Food Network's show Healthy Appetite and is a well-known nutritionist and her motto is to cut the calories in half (sometimes even down to a third) for all the yummy goodies in her book - Comfort Food Fix: Feel Good Favourites made Healthy.



I've had this book for a year or so and have loved cooking my way through it. In fact, the first thing I ever made from this book was the Zucchini bread and then these triple chocolate chip cookies which have become my go to recipe. In fact I was inspired by her to make the cookies for India Food Network. Click here for the link.


Ellie's book is divided in the most fabulous way. Nine chapters and a 150 awesome recipes. She's got chapters including Soups and Sandwiches,  Breakfast and Brunch, Vegetarian Main dishes, Poultry Main dishes, Sides and my favourite Desserts.

The fact that she has explained nutritional content for each of her recipes versus that what is store-bought makes this book a must for those who like their lasagnas and meatloaves not to mention apple crisps and sweet potato casseroles.



My favourite is the the recipe for the Chicken pot pie. As a huge fan of savoury pies, I have to tell you that I had no idea that a pot pie could taste so good.  Closely followed by Buttermilk waffles.

Oh and the photographs. They are what make this book so truly decadent. It's like they are all calling out to you, to well, eat them. And they also make you want to eat better.  Did I mention this book is a New York Times Best Seller? Oh well, that's the other feather in it's cap.

Truth is, never more have I been inspired to try this many low-cal recipes. Ellie just makes it sound so simple and wonderful.


Comfort Food Fix: Feel Good Favourites made Healthy by Ellie Krieger. Available in the US, UK and India.



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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Guess who's coming for dinner?

I've been throwing dinner parties since I was 14. You read that right, 14. I think it's the need to feed people is how it began. One dish here or there. A bake. Some dessert once a week.. And slowly they became meals, whole meals. But it wasn't until my late teens did I realise I could put together meals in a matter of hours.

Back home, on any given night at we'd be 10 people at least. It was like a stream of people. Some eating by 8 other by 9 and if any of our friends dropped by then dinner would be on till whenever. Then the requests began.  And then themed dinner parties. I was well on my way to be a

Truth is, I love throwing dinner parties. I find any reason to invite people over. And when they land up unexpectedly, it's even more fun. So I always stock up on ready-to-eat food in my pantry and plenty of meat in my freezer.



So when Kitchens of India with Indiblogger told us to come up with an intriguing menu from their ready-to eat and conserve lines, my brain started ticking. I wouldn't serve them straight from the box, I knew I'd like to do something with them.

Last weekend I had half a dozen meat-eating friends coming over, and I wondered how I could make this a special meal. I decided to up my challenge and make a nice fusion Pan-Indian meal.

I looked through the choices and decided to make it as fun as possible. I started the meal with a welcome drink with the Mango-Saffron conserve and lemon. A sort of panakkam which tasted just fabulous thanks to the conserve.

I dimmed the lights and put on some R.D. Burman music, draped the lamps with a red dupatta which gave the house a lovely hue setting the mood for a languid fusion meal.



Slow roasted barbecued Chicken basted with the Mango-Garlic preserve was up next as a starter. Sweet tangy and totally hitting the spot. As the meal progressed I brought out mutton chops which I used making the Kohlapuri Mutton Mix. Succulent and chock-ful of flavours these turned out to be absolutely fabulous. I also make a Paneer Tikka from the Mughlai Paneer, which I dried out in a pan and served with the Tamarind and Date chutney

The piece de resistance was brought out - Chettinad Chicken Biryani where I layered the Ready to eat Chettinad Chicken Curry with spiced rice and gave a dum to it. I served it with a raita spiked with the Tomato and chilli Chutney. And a bit of the Mirch ka Salan on the side. Why biryani, you might ask? Because nothing fills you up like this true-blue Indian dish.

And finally for dessert, I made a baked yogurt flavoured with the Strawberry and Mint conserve which I topped with fresh berries. And a calzone filled with the Hazoori Petha Halwa which i served with a bit of fresh cream on the side.

Can you imagine the looks on the my friends faces when I told them this meal was made from all ready-to-eat food? Incredible, they said, that something from a box can taste so good.

Trust me, I felt the same way.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Musk Melon and Mint Granita


In case you were wondering where I had disappeared, I was on vacation. May (like March and June) is a month of birthdays for me which includes the husband's and my brother 's. But it was my aunt's 60th birthday which was really the bigger deal. I went back home for the celebrations and I have to say it was really good fun.

But May has also been a good month for me otherwise. I was NDTV Good Times on an episode of  Guilt-free with Seema Chandra and I did two gluten-free recipes. You can check the link here.

I made my first double-tiered fondant cake which weighed 5.5 kgs and boy was it was hard in the humidity of Chennai. It was an angry birds themed cake with my favourite chocolate flourless cake as the base. I must post a recipe of that soon, but everytime I think I'll take a picture, the cake gets gobbled up.



A good break which included a lot of baking, cooking and ice cream making. That's right, lots of ice cream making. You see my Cuisinart ice cream maker finally arrived after my Kenwood went bust. And I have to say this is one phenomenal ice cream maker. I made an eggless chikoo ice cream in it, Amarula ice cream, chocolate gelato and a mango sorbet. So it was no surprises that I wanted to make something in the ice cream maker as soon as I was back.

I found a ripe melon in the back of my fridge and inspired by Sangeeta's smoothie, I decided to make a granita. Actually I set to make a sorbet, but the melon had frozen a bit much by the time I'd got to it, so granita it was.

A really simple recipe which basically needs to be blitzed and then churned, its super refreshing and perfect for these hot hot days.




Musk Melon and Mint Granita
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

1 large musk melon
One small bunch of mint
1 tsp stevia
2 tblsp vodka

Directions

1. Peel and deseed the melon and cut into large chunks.
2. In a blender add the melon chunks, mint, vodka and stevia and blitz.
3. Use your ice cream maker as per the manufacturers recommendation and in the frozen bowl churn the ice cream for 15 minutes.
4. Freeze for 4 hours before serving.

Note: If you do not have an ice cream maker, just freeze the mix in a shallow dish and scrape out with a fork before serving


Pinterest Picks. Cool drinks for the hot summer


It's hot hot hot. Like 100 degrees type hot. No surprises then that I want to do is sit in the freezer. Aaarrrgggh. For the last week I have been making drinks that will cool me down. Or atleast try and cool down.

But what happens when you want to a nice cocktail that wouldn't warm your innards but make you feel cool and light-headed. That's when Pinterest comes in. I've picked out 10 of my favourite cocktail for the summer, some mild, others fruity but all delicious.

Meanwhile follow me on Pinterest would ya?


1. Caramel Apple Cocktail



2.  The Pink Bikini



3.  Blood Orange Margharita



4. Pineapple and Malibu Rum Punch


5.  Espresso Float



6.  Frozen Lemon and Coconut drink



7. Miami Ice



8.  Sarasota



9.  Watermelon Lemonade


10. Peach Flip


La Tagliatella. Blogger's Table

The first time I went to La Tagliatella was a couple of days after it had opened. While the bread basket and the pizza were lovely, what I did remember totally loving were the desserts, the tiramisu and the frozen lemon sorbet to be specific. A couple of weeks later, I took my brother was a quick meal and while we washed our half and half pizza down with cold glasses of freshly brewed iced tea, it was the the tiramisu that sprang back to my mind.



So when we were invited to do a review, I knew exactly what I wanted. I was running a tiny bit late because and  Mukta and Himanshu were there at least half an hour before me. Even then, they were kind enough to only nibble on the bread basket or the Panne della Tagliatella which were freshly-baked  foccacias with a variety of toppings - olives, caramelised onions, cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs - which could be dunked into some lovely flavoured olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

While we waited to place the order, the antipasti Mozzarelleta was fantastic. Gooey cheese with nuts and cherry tomatoes and a drizzle of balsamic reduction made the meal just perfecto. Provoletta was brought out next - provolone cheese sitting stringily atop some grilled veggies.




As we waited for our mains to arrive - the pizzas came to greet us. We'd ordered the Melanzana - Aubergines, tomatoes and balsamic and the Proscuitto with turkey ham. I'd eaten the Melanzana earlier and loved it this time too.

The stuffed pastas and the salads were out next. Sid and I didn't try the seafood pasta, with the allergies and all but I was told that it was awesome. To be honest, I didn't care for the salad or the pasta. Perhaps it was just bad ordering on our end.



Anyhoo. All this was washed down with a glass of Fratelli's white and then my favourite course was brought out. We decided to share the desserts so the tiramisu, chocolate mousse and the cheesecake and the lemon sorbet were served to us. I looooved the sorbet and am dying to replicate it. Then it was time to cut Parul's birthday cake. 

Yay!



Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Rocky Road Brownies




I have never met a person who doesn't like marshmallows. Except for vegetarians, because when they find out its all egg white and gelatin, then its nocandosville babydoll for them. But till then, they are happy mallow eaters.

Do I eat marshmallows plain? No I like em melty. Or better still charred. I love peeling off that layer of charriness and then poking my finger in to get a load of that gooey stickiness.  But on the cold stone I icecreams I love mini marshmallows. They make them last longer with all that chewiness.

So you can totally understand why I love Rocky Road Ice cream then. Bits of chocolate, lots of nuts and plenty of marshmallows, so yum. So many  textures. So many levels of yummness.



And while my new ice cream maker is only a couple of days away, I needed to bake something rocky roady since the image was stuck in my head thanks to Pinterest. And a brownie seemed the best way to satiate that urge for something rocky. I love a sexy fudgy brownie, unlike cookies they are not my undoing. A single piece of brownie can stare at me from the fridge for days but, it wont matter.

So I succumbed. And baked. And luckily had a dinner to go to, so it all worked out perfectly for me cause these make lovely hostess presents as well.

These brownies are extremely fudgy so please put a parchment paper at the bottom (do not make my mistake) and I would suggest that you also cut the brownie when its super cold and keep it in the refrigerator until you'd like to eat em.

Also I used just walnuts - feel free to use all kinds of nuts :)



Rocky Road Brownies
Adapted slightly from Joy of Baking

Ingredients


120 gram dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
100 grams  butter, cut into pieces
150 grams sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup (95 grams) flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping:
1/2 cup chocolate chips chocolate chips
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Method

1. In a saucepan melt butter and chocolate together. Turn off the gas
2. Add sugar and vanilla, Whisk well.let it cool for 5 minutes
3. Add the eggs one at a time beating well. 
4. Sift in the salt and flour and pour into a parchment lined rectangular tin
5. Bake for 20 minutes at 180 degree centigrade
6. Take it out and sprinkle the topping over well. And bake for an additional 5 minutes.
7. Let it cool completely before cutting





Thursday, May 2, 2013

Coconut and lemon cookies


Cookies are my undoing. But you already knew that. Cookies are my husband's undoing. But you knew that too.

While the straightforward chocolate chip cookie is the true love of my life, I also very partial to a cranberry and macadamia nut and a ginger maple cookie. But that absolutely doesn't mean that I will ever skip a coconut macaroon, let an espresso cookie pass me by without sinking my teeth into.

Cookies are also my favourite giveaway. They make fantastic presents are so simple to put together. And I can think of 10,000 variations to go by. And if all else fails there's always my triple chocolate cookies to the rescue.

These cookies were made late last night, when after over two weeks of not even holding a whisk or a spatula in my hand. I baked some awesome brownies, which I will be blogging about soon. And then these cookies. Can I please tell you these cookies smell absurdly amazing? And that they spread a bit.

They taste lovely these cookies, they do. A lovely rich nutty flavour from the coconut, slight tang from the lemon and I baked them so that they crispened up a bit, so they had a beautiful crunch as well.

I left these cookies for a bit until I went to fiddle with the camera, and when I came back there was a rather large whole in the basket. Hmm.... wonder whodunnit. Anyone else living with a cookie monster?




Coconut and Lemon Cookies
Adapted from My Baking Addiction

Makes 21 large cookies

Ingredients

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
¾  cups white sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 tsp lemon extract
3 drops yellow food colouring
Zest of one large lemon, finely minced
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup unsweetened toasted coconut1/2 cup icing sugar for rolling cookies

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to180 degree centigrade. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. Using your fingers mix the lemon zest and sugar together. Add the butter and whisk till fluffy.
4. Beat in egg, vanilla extract, lemon juice and yellow colouring.
5. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients and toasted coconut.
6. Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls, and roll in sugar. Place on lined cookie sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart.
7. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly browned


Am also sending this to Tea Time Treats by What Kate Baked and is hosted by Lavender and Lovage this May. We've got cookies on the menu, so don't forget to send in your favourite ones.


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