February 27, 2011

Creamy Dreamy Crunchy & Sweet: Daring Bakers' Challenge

February has been a busy month - with a little travel, meeting new friends, new foods & new adventures!  The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies. Though making Panna Cotta is not new for me, I was excited for the opportunity to make the dessert again, playing with different flavors. When we decided to have a few of our friends over last weekend, it seemed like a perfect day to get the challenge done. And as always, it is so wonderful to have friends for dinner who are willing to be a part of my kitchen experiments!

For this challenge, I made a Coconut - Cardamom Panna Cotta with a Blueberry Coulis. For the panna cotta, in addition to the cream and sugar, mine is a vegetarian version with agar instead of gelatin. I also added about a cup of coconut milk and a couple of pinches of cardamom when the cream was cooking. In hind-sight, the flavor was not strong. Our friends could make out the coconut only after I mentioned it and the cardamom was kind of lost. Next time, I will have to use equal amounts of coconut milk & cream. Also, I started making the dessert only around 3 pm for a 7 pm dinner, that led to a little bit more anxiety. I added more agar than needed, which made the panna cotta a little bit more heavier than what I think it should be. I would have preferred a little bit fluffiness in it. No questions about the deliciousness of the dessert though :) 

For the topping I made a blueberry coulis, with heating together blueberries and sugar. The color was so beautiful. 

And finally for the Florentine cookies, I used almond meal, left out the oats, and added a lot of lemon zest. Can any dish go wrong when it has copious amounts of butter & sugar caramelized together with more delectable ingredients? They turned out to be perfect - a little chewiness from the honey, and crunchiness from the brown sugar + butter. I made two dozens of these for the 6 of us and none was left at the end of the evening!

The recipes for the Panna Cotta & Florentine Cookies can be accessed from the pdf posted here.

February 25, 2011

Quinoa - Sweet potato - Peanut Soup

I made this soup at the beginning of winter and just never got around to posting it. I love the combination of the Japanese white sweet potatoes and peanuts. Quinoa just made this a lot more wholesome. The pleasures of a simple recipe!!!

Ingredients: 1 Sweet Potato (white) - chopped; 1 small zucchini - chopped; 1 medium onion - sliced; 1/2 red pepper - chopped; 2 cups vegetable stock; 1 cup quinoa - rinsed well; 4-5 tbsp peanut butter; salt & pepper.
  • Saute the onions in a little olive oil. 
  • Add the chopped sweet potatoes, bell pepper - saute for a few minutes. 
  • Add the stock and cook till the potatoes are almost tender.
  • Add the zucchini and the quinoa. Season with salt & pepper.
  • Simmer for about 10 minutes. 
  • Whisk in the peanut butter.
  • Serve hot & enjoy!
I am sending this to My Legume Love Affair #32, started by Susan of the Well-Seasoned Cook and hosted by Sandhya's Kitchen.

February 24, 2011

Mushroom Stew from Moldova

This simple stew, called Tokana, was adapted from one of my favorite food blogs: AZ Cookbook, and was originally from the book: Please to the Table: the Russian Cookbook. When I made this stew, it turned out to be one of the dishes that makes you want to lick your fingers and ask for more! I served this as a side with a vegetarian Bobotie, and it was wonderful.

Ingredients: Button mushrooms - quartered; 1 red onion - chopped; 2 tomatoes chopped; 2 cloves of garlic - minced; 1/2 cup white wine; a pinch of dried herbs; lemon juice; flour; salt & pepper; cayenne pepper or paprika, mint for garnish.
  • Saute the mushrooms in olive oil, transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice. Be generous, as the citrusy acidity makes the difference.
  • Saute the onions and add the garlic, tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder for spiciness, dried herbs. Cook for a few minutes.
  • Add 2 tbsp of flour and the wine. Let the sauce thicken. 
  • Add the mushrooms, adjust seasoning and simmer for a few minutes. 
  • Garnish and serve!
Though it sounds like any other stew or curry on first glance, the mushrooms soaked in lemon juice were too good! A keeper recipe :)

February 14, 2011

Daring Bakers: Biscuit Joconde Imprime / Entremet

Its the middle of February and I finally manage to make and post my creation from January's Daring Baker's Challenge. The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog Accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a “Biscuit Joconde Imprime” to wrap around an Entremets dessert. The recipe & instructions can be found here. I used a strawberry mousse and a banana mousse as filing. I topped off the entremet with a red wine gelee, garnished with strawberries dusted with chocolate. It was definitely a dessert that took a lot of work, but the result was so yummy!

Happy Valentine's Day!

February 11, 2011

Henna Style on Canvas

Here is one of my latest artwork from last night. Its a simple Henna (mehendi) pattern on a 8x10 stretched canvas. The painting is black textured acrylic - using regular gel paste. Background is yellow with a hint of green. I also added a small mirror piece for accent. The sides are also painted black. I like the way this turned out - can be hung in any orientation. I still need to put my name to it and do a coat of varnish. Will be soon available on Bee's Beads & Colors.

This painting was donated to a silent auction fund raiser for the Kabillo Community Center, Darkar through Slow Food Madison.

February 10, 2011

Comfort Food

Every individual has their own definition of what a comfort food is and what it is. For me, I have an array of comfort foods. Growing up in a TamBram culture, it can be a simple dal + rice with ghee, pearl onion sambhar with freshly ground spices, or when I crave something spicy - this eggplant 'ennai kozhambu' ( ~ an oily stew, though it doesn't have much oil). For Shankar, he will be content with yogurt + rice + spicy pickle. And with this dish, I am usually able to re-create the exact taste from when my mom makes it, thanks to the same recipe we follow :) 

Ingredients: 6 small eggplants - quartered; 3-4 tbsp yellow split peas; 1-2 tbsp black peppercorns; a small can (5oz) of coconut milk; 2 dried red chillies; a tsp tamarind paste; salt to taste; 1/2 tsp cumin; 1/2 tsp coriander; 1 tbsp oil
  • Roast together with a little oil - split peas, chillies, peppercorns, cumin and coriander till the peas turn reddish.
  • In the blender, grind together the roasted ingredients with enough water, coconut milk, tamarind paste and salt. 
  • In a pot, saute the eggplants in the oil, add enough water to cover them and cook for a few minutes till they are tender.
  • Add the paste and water as needed. Cook for about 5 minutes or so till the consistency is that of a gravy.
  • Adjust seasoning, serve with hot rice + a dash of ghee.

An absolute delish dish on a cold winter day...especially when it feels like 9 degrees F in Wisconsin.

February 8, 2011

Baby Afghan

I made this little baby Afghan for a special little girl. Though she wont be able to tell whether she likes it, I am sure she is gonna feel the warmth :) This one is made with Marble Chunky jewel tones and very berry yarn. I love the yarn for the variegated color, the double size it comes in and is very nice to work with. The pattern is a rectangle granny square. I have also made two scarves with these yarn and they are available for sale at Bee's Beads & Colors, for the fundraiser I am doing. Plus, I am doing free shipping till Valentine's Day!!!

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