Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Announcing "Serve It" series... Serve It - Steamed

After the rip-roaring success of the Serve It - Fried event (with 117 entries), here we are with the next theme for the Serve It - Series. The theme for this month is "Steamed". If frying makes everything taste better, Steaming is nothing less compared to it. There are authentic recipes in every cuisine which are steamed. 

Steaming makes the food healthier and the amount of nutrients lost is very minimal compared to other methods of cooking. Steaming is when the food is cooked in steam or water vapour. It should not be confused with boiling, where the food is dropped into hot water. It is also different from double boiling, where the food's contact to the steam is undesired e.g. melting chocolate.
Here is the list to give an idea on examples of steamed foods...
When Idli, Idiyappam, Puttu(Pittu), SevaiKozhukattai (Modak),Momos, Dhokla, Paruppu urundai etc.,. makes the predominant Indian Steamed Foods, Dumplings, Dim Sum, Manapua, Shumai (Siu Mai) are few examples of the Oriental foods. However steamed vegetables and fish are always made in all cuisines.
Here are the guidelines for the event:
1. You may send in any entry that has been ‘Steamed’. Not to be confused with boiling/double-boiling/bain-marie method of cooking. Please do not link entries which are pressure cooked with water. If using the pressure cooker for steaming that is OK. 
2. Both Vegetarian as well as Non vegetarian entries are welcome. Although, No Beef/Pork/Alcohol please.
3. Please link back to this announcement page and also to Denny's page.
4. New entries are appreciated, however if you are sending archived entries, please re-post as latest (with a date in September 2011) and update with both the links to the announcement page and logo.
5. Usage of logo is mandatory.
6. Last date for submission of your entries is September 30, 2011
7. To send in your entries, just link your entries using the below linky tool. 
8. Non-bloggers also can send their entries with a picture to the below email-id.
9. If you have a problem in linking email us your problem to serveit[dot]series[at]gmail[dot]com. We will try to resolve it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Black and White Wednesday - First Starbucks Store

The name says it all.. The First Starbucks Store in Seattle. This picture was taken during our last year visit to Seattle. Our friend Denny had invited us over for the Tulip Festival.

Sending this to Susan's Black and White Wednesdays!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I am Tagged for the 7 links challenge..

Neha of From my Heart blog and Aarthi of YummyTummy have tagged me to play a game of the 7 links. It is one of the recent blogosphere's interesting tagging event. Thanks Neha for tagging me along, had real good time in thinking over the links. It is selecting the 7 of your blog posts links for the following categories.

1. The most beautiful post
I would categorize two of my posts as most beautiful.
Ragi Kaara Biscuits and Tomato Basil Soup

2. The most popular post
I have picked the most popular posts based on the page hits. And the popular post is Mango Cupcakes

3. The most controversial post - I believe I do not have anything controversial on food posts :).
4. The most helpful post 
I had posted a new page for Basic & Tips and I would think the Making of Idli batter as the most helpful post. 

I also list Paneer Butter Masala as another helpful post because my recipe is lower in fat but has the same great taste as the restaurant version.

5. A post that was surprisingly successful
My post on Tomato chopps, a traditional curry prepared at our house fetched surprisingly a lot of accolades and comments.

6. A post that did not get the attention it deserves
Pasiparuppu Upma, my favorite kind of upma. I believe it did not have many visitors because it was one of my earliest posts. I simply love this one.

7. A post I am most proud of
Without doubt my post on Wheat Halwa/Tirunelveli Halwa. I was beaming with proudness when I got this traditional authentic recipe right on my first try.

And now the fun part. I am tagging my 7 more of my blogger friends to play along. 
Harini-Jaya of Tamalapaku
Prathima of Prat's Corner
Priya of Now Serving
Priya of Mharo Rajasthan 
Shanavi of Kitchen Secrets
Savitha of Savitha Kitchen
Sara of Saras' Yummy bites

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Garlic Basil Vegetable Fried Rice - Thai Style

I believe my readers would very well know that I am a big fan of Thai Food. After the Thai Red Curry and Thai Green Curry, my next attempt is this Garlic and Basil Fried Rice. This is another favorite recipe in Thai cuisine - Kapow Jae meaning Thai basil with vegetables. I looovvvee Basil. The beautiful fragnance of Basil is simply divine. No wonder the holy basil or Tulsi is an offering made to Hindu gods. 

Rice - 2 cups
Garlic cloves - 6 or 8 - minced
Basil leaves - 1/2 cup - tightly packed - thinly sliced
Dry Red chillies - 5 or Red pepper flakes - 1 1/2 tsp
Extra Firm Tofu - 1 block - pressed and cubed
Carrots - 2 - julienned
Red bell pepper - 1/2 - julienned
Green bell pepper - 1/2 - julienned
Soy sauce - 1/4 cup (I used Low-sodium variety)
Light brown sugar - 1/2 tsp
Sesame oil / Canola oil - 2 tbsp
Wash and soak the rice in water for 30 mins. Cook the rice with 4 cups of water, 1/2 tsp of salt and a drizzle of oil. When done, fluff it with a fork spread it on a baking sheet and allow it to cool. Saute the cubed tofu in a tsp of oil until light brown on all sides. In a wide pan, add the oil and garlic and heat in a medium flame. When it starts getting hot add the carrots, bell peppers and increase the heat to med-high. Saute well for 3 to 4 mins and add the basil leaves and red chilli flakes. Add the soy sauce, sugar and salt. Mix well and reduce the heat to medium. Add the cooked cooled rice, tofu and toss gently to mix well. Serve hot.
Note: You can add any vegetables of your choice. Take care while sauteing the garlic as it tends to burn very quickly.
Sending this Garlic Basil Fried rice to Herbs & Flowers - Garlic event by PJ and to Rice Recipes Event.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Baked French Toast Minis with Strawberries

This weekend for my regular Sunday morning french toast breakfast, I tried baked french toast with chopped strawberries. These were cute little bakes which were colorful and elegant at the same time. Perfect for breakfast these can also be served as a party dessert. You should definitely use old bread since fresh bread would become mushy. Also check out my other french toast recipes, Blackberry French Toast and French Toast with Stuffed Walnuts.
Preparation time: 10 mins; Setting time: 4 - 8 hrs; 
Serves - 2; Yields 8 muffins;
French bread - stale - 7 or 8 oz - cubed
Eggs - 2
Milk - 1.5 cups
Light brown sugar - 2 tbsp (can use white sugar as well)
Ground Cinnamon - 1/2 tsp
Vanilla - 1/2 tsp
Strawberries - 5 or 6 - chopped
White Sugar - 1 tsp
Grease the muffin cups with butter or oil. Chop the strawberries into small pieces and add some white sugar. Allow it to macerate for about 10 mins. Meanwhile drop 3 or 4 cubes of the bread to each muffin cups. Whisk the eggs until frothy. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and milk. Add the milk mixture to eggs. Pour the egg mixture to each cup until full. Spoon the strawberries on the top. Cover with an aluminium foil and pop it in the fridge overnight or for a minimum of 4 hrs. Bake for 20 - 25 mins in an oven preheated to 350 F/175 C. Cool for a couple of minutes and then scoop out carefully. Serve hot topped with sugar or maple syrup and fresh fruits.
Note: Before baking you could top the strawberries with a mixture of cinnamon and brown sugar for a caramelized topping. The toast will be puffy just out of the oven but eventually flattens down.

Sending these to Let's Cook - Scrumptious Breakfasts event by Radhika and to Anu's Strawberries - Dessert event.

Sending this to Srivalli's Kid's Delight hosted by Nupur of UK-Rasoi, for the month of April 2012.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Karuveppilai Podi / Curry leaves Spice Powder | Side Dish for Idli Dosa

What is more fascinating than using fresh herbs straight from your garden? Well, nothing else in cooking I would say. Pick, wash, use. How easy and intriguing is that. Speaking of fresh herbs, curry leaves always plays a vital part in Indian cooking. 
Curry leaves is well known as Karuveppilai in Tamil and KariBevu in Kannada. Karu - Black/darkened; Veppilai - Neem leaves. Widely used as a flavor enhancer for food while seasoning, it also has its unique place in ayurvedic medicine. It has anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-oxidant properties and also rich in Iron. Did you know that it is good for the strength of your hair, taken both internally and applied as infused oil. Grandma used to prepare hair oil for us using pure coconut oil (organic and made at home by grinding dry coconuts aka copra), curry leaves and hibiscus leaves. And now we are talking about being "organic" as something rare and rich.

Curry leaves - 2 cups - cleaned and tightly packed
Chana dhal - 3 tbsp
Coriander seeds - 2 tbsp
Urad dhal - 1 tbsp
Moong dhal - 1 tbsp
Pepper corns - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida / Hing - 1/4 tsp
Red chillies - 7 or 8
Tamarind - a blueberry/gooseberry size (skip if you do not have)
Salt - to taste

Dry roast chana dhal, coriander seeds, urad dhal, moong dhal, pepper corns and asafoetida one by one. Let it cool in a plate. Add half a tsp of oil in the same skillet and roast the tamarind and add it to the cooling dhals. Add the curry leaves in batches to the same skillet and roast them until it becomes lightly toasted and becomes light in weight. Cool and grind everything together in a mixer grinder / blender with salt until fine. Serve with steamed rice with ghee or gingelly oil. Excellent pair for idlis and dosas or with some hot steamed rice and ghee.
Note: The curry leaves may get stuck in the mixer blades while grinding. If it happens, filter the spice powder with a sieve, add the curry leaf fiber again and rerun the mixer.

Sending this healthy, flavorful and aromatic powder to B2B - Dry podis event by Jaya, Flavors of South India event by Nayna and to Srivalli's Condiment Mela.

Also sending this to Akila's Dish Name Starts with K

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Wheat Halwa / Tirunelveli Halwa for Indian Cooking Challenge (ICC) / Godhuma Halwa step by step | Diwali Sweets Recipes

The chosen dish for this month's Indian Cooking Challenge is Wheat Halwa/Tirunelveli Halwa. This is my first month of participation and I am truly excited about the challenge. ICC is all about traditional cooking and trying out Indian cultural recipes. In this fast moving world, we all have traditional cooking mostly only in our memories. Every month a traditional recipe from different regions of India is chosen and we, the ICC participants try to recreate the recipe. I joined ICC with an interest of learning the traditional recipes. This month's recipe is Wheat Halwa / Godhumai Halwa / Tirunelveli Halwa. I have watched grandma make this tasty halwa at home but never really cared to learn the proportions, except of course help her stirring. When Srivalli announced the challenge, she gave a option of 3 recipes to choose from for wheat halwa. I chose Lathaji's recipe. I was really happy to start the ICC journey with a favorite sweet and tried to get step-by-step pictures. And, oh was I overly enjoyed and in high spirits when I made this halwa and we purely enjoyed it.
I had a tough time hunting for whole wheat berries in Indian stores and local groceries but managed to find it in Whole Foods Market.

Using standard US measurement cups
Soaking time: 8 hrs; 
Pre-preparation (grinding): 45 mins;
Milk setting time: 2 hrs;
Stirring time: 1 hr;
Setting and cooling time: 30 mins;
Wheat berries - 3/4 cup + 1 tbsp
Sugar - 2 cups
Ghee - 1 cup
Water - 1/2 cup
Cardamom powder - 1/2 tsp
Orange Food Color - a pinch
Cashewnuts - broken - 1 tbsp - if using
You also need:
A heavy bottomed vessel
A ladle with a rounded handle, easy to hold and stir
A lot of patience and perseverance.. :)
Extracting the Wheat milk:
Soak the wheat berries in water for 8 to 10 hours. I soaked it overnight. Grind the berries in a wet grinder or a mixie with 1 cup of water. After 10 mins, take the ground wheat and filter the milk using a sieve. This is first milk. Keep aside undisturbed. Return the fibrous wheat to the grinder and add 1/2 cup of water. After 10 mins, repeat the filtering process and keep this second milk in a separate bowl. Repeat the process again for third milk and then discard the wheat fiber. 
Set this 3 bowls with milk undisturbed, covered in a draft free place. After 2 hours, the thick milk would have settled in the bottom. Carefully scoop out all the water on the top of the three bowls (second image below) and discard the water. Mix milk in all the three bowls.
Getting prepared for the Halwa stirring:
Before you start with the stirring process make sure that you have the ingredients handy and set on easy reach. I made sure I have laid out the food color, cardamom and greased the plate with ghee (for setting and making pieces). A backup person to help stirring is appreciated. DH was of great help in stirring and taking step-wise pictures.
Shall we start:
In a heavy bottomed vessel (I used a pressure cooker), mix sugar with water and heat on med-high flame until it boils. Now add food color and reduce the heat to medium. Keep stirring and check every minute for the consistency of the syrup. Touch the syrup with your index finger (Caution it would be hot) and press with thumb. It should be sticky and when released, there should be a thick string between the fingers. Achieving the string consistency of the sugar syrup would take about 10 - 15 mins from start to finish.

When this consistency is reached, reduce heat to medium-low, add the wheat milk and keep stirring continuously. Do not dare to stop stirring as the milk will tend to settle at the bottom. Stir continuously until it thickens slightly. Add the cardamom powder and 1 tbsp of ghee. Keep stirring continuously with the long spoon adding ghee in tbsp measurements in equal intervals of time. I used up about little less than a cup of ghee. After stirring for about 20 - 30 minutes, you would see that the halwa becomes glossy, comes together and it no longer sticks to the bottom. This indicates that it is done (as in the fourth pic below).
Set and Cut:
Transfer the halwa to the greased plate and allow it to cool and set for about 30 minutes to an hour. Cut into desired shapes and serve garnished with your favorite nuts. This recipe yielded me 14 pieces of 2" squares.
Enjoy your favorite sweet - homemade - just like grandma's preparation!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Carrot Basil Bruschetta | Italian Appetizers

Bruschetta (pronounced Brooskethaa) is an appetizer from central Italy. It is typically bread roasted with olive oil topped with vegetables, meat and/or cheese. The most common topping being fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella cheese. Here is my version with grated carrots, fresh basil and lemon juice. It is so easy to put together and can be done is minutes. The option of toppings are practically endless, ranging from carrots and zucchini to beans and eggs.

Yields - about 15-16 slices
French Baguette bread - 1/2 a loaf - sliced to 1/2" rounds
Carrots - 4 medium sized - grated coarsely or sliced thinly
Garlic clove - 1 
Fresh Basil - leaves from 4 twigs
Lemon juice - 2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Pepper - to taste
Extra Virgin Olive oil - as needed
Preheat the oven to 350 F / 175 C. Apply olive oil on both the sides of the baguette slices. Bake for about 8 to 10 mins. Meanwhile heat one tbsp of olive oil and saute the grated carrots until it turns light brown. Turn off the heat and season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add the torn basil leaves to the carrots and give a toss. When the bread is done, rub garlic on the top when it is still hot. Place one tsp of the carrot-basil mixture. Serve immediately. Great for a quick snack or a party!

Sending this healthy and tasty Carrot Basil Bruschetta to Herbs & Flowers - Basil event by PJ; Kid's Delight - Crunchy Snacks event by Srivalli; Fast Food not Fat Food event by Priya; CC-Appetizers event by Sravs; HLI - Carrots event by Kalyani.

I am also sending 3 more entries to Srav's CC- Appetizers event.
Gobi Manchurian, Fiery Chilli Baby Corn and Paneer Spinach Pinwheels.