Oct 29, 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes & Scary Eyeballs !!

I kept searching for a good pumpkin based dessert recipe and almost all the recipes I saw used canned pumpkin. I kept wondering, when you get lovely fresh Pumpkin in the stores , specially now that its Fall, why not use them.
Thats how I came to make these Pumpkin cupcakes with some chopped Pecans and Cream cheese frosting and they came out really well. And to keep up with the fun of Halloween , I decorated them like scary vein popping eyeballs !!

I took the recipe from the Joy of Baking website , but made a couple of changes. I added a little paprika powder for some kick and though you couldn't really taste any paprika, it sure tasted good overall. Also I skipped the butter and used Vegetable oil instead which made the cupcakes really moist.

I used some fun Halloween Pumpkin designed cups for the Pumpkin cupcakes and the chopped Pecans give a nice bite while enjoying these beauties ;-)

Pumpkin Cupcakes Recipe
Recipe source : Joy of Baking.com
(Yields a Dozen cupcakes)
For Pumpkin Cupcake:
All purpose flour - 1.5cups
Baking powder - 1 tsp
Baking Soda - 1 tsp
Cinnamon Powder - 1/2 tsp
Ground cloves - 1/4 tsp
Ground ginger powder - 1/4 tsp
Paprika powder - 1/4 tsp ( my variation)
Pumpkin puree - 1 cup ( I made my own)
Vegetable oil - 1/2 cup ( I dint use butter, if using then use - butter 1/2cup)
Sugar - 3/4 cup
Vanilla extract - 1tsp
Eggs - 2 large
Chopped Pecans - 2-3 tbsp
Salt - 1/2 tsp
For Cream cheese frosting:
Cream cheese - 4oz
Confectioners sugar / Powdered sugar - 1cup
Butter - 2tbsp
Vanilla extract - 1tsp

1. Preheat overn to 350F
2. For homemade pumpkin puree: Chop pumpkin into small cubes (approx - 1cup) and boil with 3 tbsp water and once the pumpkin becomes soft blend it or puree it until smooth.
3. Sift together the dry ingredients : All purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon powder, ground cloves , ground ginger, paprika and salt.
4. With the help of an electrc blender or hand mixer, mix togther the sugar and oil (or butter) until smooth, then add the eggs one at a time, vanilla extract and slowly mix in the flour mixture and pumpkin puree alternately.
5. Now add in the chopped pecans
6. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake cups and pour the batter into each 2/3 full.
7. Bake for 20 mins or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
8. Place on a wire rack to cool down completely.

For Cream cheese frosting:
Use cream cheese at room temperature and using an electic or hand blender blend the cheese until smooth, then add butter, powdered sugar and vanilla extract one by one and blend it well until the frosting becomes smooth and creamy.

For the scary eyeball designs I used
a. Cream cheese frosting
b. Grape flavoured Skittles
c. Blue colored Cream Cheese frosting
e. Pureed strawberry jam
Puree some Strawberry jam and put it in a piping bag.
Add the blue colored frosting in another piping bag.
Spoon some Cream Cheese frosting on the Cupcakes and place the Skittle candy in the centre, pipe some the blue colored frosting around the skillet and pipe the strawberry jam in a vein like design.

I wish everyone a fun filled Halloween and have a great time trick or treating. Hope you all have selected your costumes by now :-)
I picked out some cute Lady bug and Pumpkin costumes for my little monster at home ;-)

Sending this post to Halloween Fiesta event hosted by Vardhini of Zesty Palette. I want to thank Kavi of Edible Entertainment for letting me know of this beautiful event and also Vardhini for her invitation.

I've also sent this post to Priya's Healthy Bakes Roundup Event Announcement. ( There was some error while linking the post so my Pic has not shown up)

Also sending this post to Bake Fest #1 Event hosted by Vardhini of Zesty Palette.
Sending this post to Bake with your Heart event hosted by Khushi.

- Manju

Oct 25, 2011

Sugar Cookies - for baby's day out!!

I've been so excited to share this post , but wasn't getting enough time with the baby, household chores and grocery shoppings :-)

I had taken my little one to my office last week and I wanted to take something sweet for my colleagues. Obviously I wanted a simple recipe which I could prepare without getting interrupted ;-)
Finally I found this really simple recipe for Sugar cookies and I must say they came out really well for my first time try. They were so good, it just melted in your mouth.

Thanks to my little sweetheart , I got the time to frost and decorate the cookies (he was sleeping , ofcourse!)
It almost felt like an Arts and Craft project to prepare the colored frosting and creating the different designs  :-) I totally enjoyed it.

I'm not a big fan of Sugar cookies loaded with sugary frosting, so I made two kinds. One batch with colorful sugar frosting (for a child like theme) and the other batch with chocolate drizzled on them...Yumm!
Also I'm glad to say that everyone in office loved it! We had a good time and the baby totally enjoyed his day out at my office :-)

I used a star shape to cut out my cookies, you can use whichever shape you like.  The only variation I did from the original recipe was to skip the almond extract as I do not like its taste, instead I used extra vanilla extract.

I will definitely make these again. Its so easy to make them and anyone from kids to adults can enjoy them.
Sugar cookies are a great treat for any season!

Sugar Cookies Recipe
Recipe source: Annie's Eats

You'll need :
2 ½ cups flour - sifted
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract ( As per original recipe use: 1tsp vanilla and 1.5tsp almond extract )
1 tsp salt

1. Using a hand or electric beater cream the butter.
2. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.
3. Blend in egg, almond extract (I din't use this), vanilla extract, salt and flour.
4. Chill the dough until firm. (For about an hour)
5. Roll to ¼” thickness on well-floured surface.
6. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on greased cookie sheets.(I used a silicone baking mat on my cookie sheet to place the cookies)
7. Bake at 375° for 8-10 min. Cookies should not brown.
8. Frost and decorate when cool. Yields about 40 cookies.

For sugar frosting: I used store bought Wilton Icing writer, Wilton White decorating icing and used Wilton Gel food Color to get the different colors. Also used some colored sprinkles.

For the chocolate drizzle:
Melt 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips with 4tbsp butter.
Pour it into a piping bag or Ziploc bag and snip off the tip
Place the cookies over a wire rack over your baking sheet and drizzle the chocolate onto the cookies as shown.

Suggestions: The cookie dough should be rolled to an even thickness, else some cookies may burn (if thinner than the rest) 
I somehow felt my cookies had a slightly salty aftertaste, so I would suggest adding just a pinch of salt instead of 1tsp as per actual recipe. 

Try them out, they are so easy to make and can be enjoyed even without any frosting. Its that good!

Sending this post to Bake Fest #1 Event hosted by Vardhini of Zesty Palette.
Sending this post to Bake with your Heart event hosted by Khushi.

 Cookie Party hosted by Shema of Lifescoops

- Manju

Oct 23, 2011

Cherry & Blueberry Pie - a dessert for any ocassion

I love having Pies for desserts , specially those made with a fruit filling. It makes me feel like I'm indulging in something sweet yet healthy. Also the taste of the baked pie crust with the soft juicy filling is just beyond words.
Also you can top it off with some whipped cream or ice cream to enjoy it even more!!

Well this was my first attempt at making a fruit pie at home and it was really good. More than me I think my husband loved it as he couldn't stop eating it. I shared this with our friends and they liked it too.

I had initially thought of making a Cherry pie, but I had a whole box of Blueberries too in my fridge, so added that too. It tasted sweet and mildly tart from the blueberries. The only thing I wouldn't add next time is the Almond extract, somehow I felt it changed the taste of the cherries a bit , that's what my friends also felt.

This recipe is taken from a couple of Pie recipe videos I saw on Youtube and tweaked to suit my taste. And to make life easier I used a store bought Pie crust but the lattice crust on top is all 'Me' made  :-)

Cherry & Blueberry Pie Recipe
You'll need
For Pie:
 9 inch Graham cracker Pie crust - 1
Fresh Cherries (pitted)- 3cups
Blueberries - 1cup
All purpose flour - 1/2 cup
Sugar - 1 cup
Vanilla extract - 1tsp
Cinnamon powder - 1/2 tsp
Almond extract - 1/2 tsp (optional)
Butter - 3 tbsp
For Lattice pie crust:
All purpose flour - 1 cup
Sugar - 1/2 cup
Cold Butter cubes- 2tbsp
Ice water
Egg white - to brush over the lattice crust top

For the Lattice crust :
Knead together the all purpose flour, cold butter , sugar with ice cold water.
Make a smooth pie dough and place it in the fridge or freezer until chilled well. (about an hour)
For the Pie :
1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. In a bowl mix together the Cherries and Blueberries, all purpose flour, sugar, cinnamon powder, vanilla and almond extract(optional) and keep aside for 10-15mins. (This helps the fruits to mix with the sugar well)

3. Fill the fruit mixture into the pie crust and cut the butter into small cubes and scatter it on the pie filling.
4. Remove the pie dough from the fridge/freezer(It's easier to work with the dough if it is chilled) . On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pie dough to about 12 inches.
5. Cut into strips with even thickness and arrange them around your pie dish with some space between each strip (around 5strips on one side)
6. Then place another 5-6 strips perpendicular to the earlier placed strips. Cut off any excess length in the strips and fold and pinch together the tips on the pie dish. (If any pie dough is left over you may freeze it or simply line it around your pie dish)
7. Lightly brush some egg white on the lattice crust and sprinkle some sugar on top.
8. Cover the edges around your pie dish with aluminium foil leaving the centre open( this is to prevent the edges from burning) and place the Pie in the middle rack of your oven.
9. Bake for 40mins and then remove the foil and bake for another 15mins or until you see the cherry-blueberry filling bubbling and have a nice brown pie crust.
10. Place it on a cooling rack once done and cut into slices and serve with whipped cream or icecream, or enjoy it just as it is!

I had earlier shared this recipe on my CookEatShare profile but I thought it was worth sharing it again on my new blog. Enjoy your Pie!!

Sending this post to Bake Fest #1 Event hosted by Vardhini of Zesty Palette.
Sending this post to Bake with your Heart event hosted by Khushi.


Oct 21, 2011


Life changes so much after having a baby. Its so amazing that someone so little can make you laugh with joy , get worried over the silliest things and teach you what patience is! Also someone so little can completely change the routines in a house :-)

These days its difficult to even make a cup of tea ready before Manish comes home from work in the evening, but yesterday my little one was so happy playing by himself in his swing, looking at own face on the mirror attached to the swing's mobile and smiling away , that I thought why not make some quick and easy snack that we could enjoy over tea. And thats when I thought of making BhelPuri which is an all time favorite chaat for Manish.

Now BhelPuri is a savoury Indian snack which is made using puffed rice , boiled potatoes, sev (a thin noodle  shaped fried snack made using chickpea flour) ,sweet and sour tamarind chutney , some green chutney made with corriander leaves and mint, spiced with some chaat masala and red chilli powder. You can also add onions or tomatoes , roasted peanuts for some crunch or even diced raw mango.
There are several ways to make BhelPuri but I made a simple one with whatever I had in the fridge, and it came out really well. Its best when eaten soon after making.

Recipe Source : My own

You'll need
Bhel (puffed rice) - 2 cups
Boiled potato cut into small cubes - 1
1/2 cup Red Onion cut into small cubes ( 1small onion or 1/2 large onion)
1/2 cup Cucumber cut into small cubes (optional)
1 medium Tomato - deseeded and diced
Tamarind chutney - 2- 3 tbsp or as per taste
Sev - 1/2 cup
Corriander leaves - chopped handful (optional)
Chaat masala - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 pinch
Salt - to taste

In a bowl mix together all the ingredients and check for seasoning. Serve immediately.

Suggestions: You can also add roasted peanuts , boiled chana (white chickpeas) , raw mango and also green chutney to your bhelpuri.

To make Tamarind chutney (Recipe source : ShowMeTheCurry )
Water - 2 cups
Tamarind paste - 2 tbsp
Jaggery - 1/2 cup
Salt - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala - 1 tsp
Cumin powder - 1 tsp
1. Mix the tamarind paste with water and boil the mixture in a saucepan.
2. While boiling, add the jaggery, Red chiili powder, Garam masala, Cumin powder and salt.
3. Keep boiling until the chutney reduces to a thicker form and turn off the heat.

I like my BhelPuri less soggy and more crunchy so I added only enough tamarind chutney to bind the mixture. You can add more if you prefer the taste

Try it out, its a tasty, healthy and colorful snack that Ï'm sure you'll enjoy to bits!!!

- Manju

Oct 18, 2011

Oatmeal cookies with Raisins and Chocolate chips

To be frank, I don't like oatmeal so much. I just find it bland no matter what I add in the oatmeal like fruits or honey etc.
So it wasn't a big wonder that I had a whole packet of rolled oats sitting in my pantry for over a year , which I'm sure I had bought thinking of creating something exotic though what that is never came to mind.

Now when I became was pregnant I was crazy hungry all the time...bless my little boy for that! :-) And I had to eat healthy, and oatmeal is always mentioned as the best-to-have breakfast or snack item. I went for snack option and made these Oatmeal cookies with Raisins and Chocolate chips from the JoyOfBaking website. Original recipe only calls for raisins but I added chocolate chips too...Curbed my sweet tooth and the bland taste of Oats!

I was thinking of making these and sharing some at office, but I liked them so much , I ate the whole batch myself...oops!!...Ofcourse not in a day!!!
It was the perfect snack for me and healthy too. I followed the recipe exactly (except for my addition of chocolate chips and using Golden raisins instead of dark) and it came out really well.

Oatmeal Cookies with Raisins and Chocolate chips
Recipe source: JoyOfBaking

You'll need 
3 cups (260 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (210 grams) light or dark brown sugar
1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated white sugar
2 large Eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with oven rack in the center of the oven and Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugars until creamy and smooth     (about 2 - 3 minutes).
3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
4. Beat in the vanilla extract.
5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon.
6. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and beat until incorporated.
7. Stir in the rolled oats, raisins and chocolate chips.
8. To make snack sized cookies, I used 1 tablespoon sized scoops of the cookie batter and placed them on the baking sheet , flattening each cookie.
[Orginal Recipe - For large cookies, use a generous 1/4 cup of batter (I like to use an ice cream scoop) and place six cookies on each baking sheet. Flatten the cookies slightly so they are about 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) thick.] 

9. Bake the cookies for about 14 -18 minutes ( I baked for 15minutes)  rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time. 
10. The cookies are done when golden brown around the edges but still a little soft in the centers. 
11. Remove from oven and let the cookies cool a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling. These cookies will keep several days at room temperature.
Note: The longer the cookies bake the crispier they will be.

Enjoy your day !!

Sending this post to Bake with your Heart event hosted by Khushi.

 Cookie Party hosted by Shema of Lifescoops

- Manju

Oct 17, 2011

Yummy Guacamole

I love Guacamole , and every time I order a Burrito from Chipotle I have to have Guacamole with it.

I lived in Dubai for many years and as Avocados are not commonly used in Indian cooking , whenever I saw them in the supermarkets there, I used to always wonder what do you make with these ? :-)
I remember seeing a soup recipe once in a magazine there, I think it was a gazpacho (cold soup) made with Avocados and that is my first memory of having seen any recipe with these delicious 'butter pears' as they are fondly known otherwise.

I tried out this recipe by Barefoot Contessa from the food network site and it was amazing.
The few things I changed from the original recipe as per my taste was, I skipped the garlic (I'm not a fan of having raw garlic in my dishes, I love them cooked though!) , I like my Guacamole creamy and without chunks and I added some cilantro leaves for some added flavor.

Guacamole Recipe
Recipe source: Barefoot Contessa Cookbook on FoodNetwork site

You'll need:

  • 4 ripe Hass avocados
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • 8 dashes hot sauce (I used Tabasco)
  • 1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced (I din't use this ingredient)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded, and small-diced
  • 1/2 cup Cilantro leaves (optional)
1. Cut the avocados in half ,remove the pits and scoop the flesh out of their shells into a large bowl.
2. Immediately add the lemon juice and using a potato masher , nicely mash the avocados.
3. Next add the hot sauce, onion, garlic (I din't add garlic), tomatoes, cilantro leaves (optional), salt and pepper and toss well. 
4. Check the seasoning and its ready to be eaten as a snack with Tortilla chips or as a spread over a burrito...Yumm!

Just a suggestion: Lime juice can also be used instead of lemon juice depending on your preference. 

- Manju

Oct 15, 2011

Paal Appam ( Coconut milk Hoppers)

Appam (Hoppers) served with Potato stew or Egg curry has been one of my most favorite breakfast dishes.
It tastes so damn good that my mouth is watering just writing about  it.

Appam is made with a Rice flour based batter, fermented using yeast ,sugar and salt . ( Source: Wikipedia)
The name Paal Appam (also called VellaAppam in some parts of Kerala) just means that coconut milk is added to the batter which provides a sweet coconutty flavor.
This was one of the 1st recipes from my mother's hand written list of homemade recipes that she gave me before my wedding which I consider as the best wedding gift and the guide to my world of cooking.

I prefer making the Rice batter from scratch than using Rice flour or the ready to make packets found in Indian grocery stores.
Also to make PaalAppam  you will need an AppaChatti ( Pan in which Appam is made) which is a small round pan with a round bottom and wide oval shaped sloping edges.

Note: If you don't have the right pan you can also use any nonstick kadai (Non Stick vessel) which has a round bottom and sloped or oval sided edges.

Paal Appam Recipe
Recipe Source: My mom

You'll Need:
For Rice batter
Rice ( Idli rice or Basmati rice ) - 3 cups
Water (for grinding) - 2 cups ( can adjust as per the grinder requirements)

For Semolina kurukku (semolina pudding)
Water - 1 cup
Semolina (Cream of wheat) - 3 tbsp

Other Ingredients
Yeast - 1 tbsp
Water ( to soak the yeast ) - 1 tbsp
Sugar - 2 tbsp
Coconut milk - 2 cups
Salt - 1 tsp

Preparation method:
Rice batter :
Soak the rice in water for atleast 4-6hrs.
Drain the water in which the rice is soaked and grind the Rice by adding little water at a time until a smooth yet slightly thick batter is obtained.
For an easier version: Use 3cups of  powdered Rice flour and mix it with water until a smooth yet thick batter is obtained.

Semolina kurrukku ( semolina pudding) :
Boil 1 cup water and when it starts to boil add the semolina and keep stirring until a thick pudding like consistency is obtained and let it sit to cool.

In a small bowl mix 1 tbsp yeast with 1 tbsp water and let it sit until the yeast starts to foam. ( I have heard adding warm water helps in this process)

Now in a large bowl mix together the rice batter, semolina pudding , yeast , sugar , coconut milk and salt and stir or whisk it all together.
Once the coconut milk is added the batter will become slightly thin  , which is why the rice batter should be a bit thick initially.
Note: The bowl used should have some space left over after the batter is filled as the batter will rise due to fermentation and if enough space is not there it will spill over.
Stir the batter well and keep it covered , place it at room temperature and let it sit for 6-8hrs. I prefer to keep it overnight ( I leave my batter in the Oven if the room temperature is cold , but make sure the Oven is switched off )

Making Paal Appam:
1. The batter should have nicely risen by now. Give it a good stir before making the Appams.
2. Heat the Appachatti by rubbing or spraying a little bit of cooking oil . ( You'll need to rub oil on the pan only for the first Appam made if using a non-stick pan)
3. Heat the pan on medium heat initially, otherwise if the pan is too hot, the batter will roll off the pan.
4. Using a ladle pour 1 scoop of the batter into the pan and holding the sides of the pan rotate the pan such that the batter spreads evenly around the pan.
Yo'll notice a nice thin outer crust with small holes almost like a lace and the center will accumulate the remaining batter.

4. Cover the pan, turn the heat to Max and cook on high heat for 2-3 minutes, cooking only on one side. (Its best if you do not open the pan in between)
5. You'll know its cooked when the centre portion of the batter domes up a bit and does not stick to a spoon but is firm and spongy.
6. Its best when served hot .

Serving Suggestions: Paal Appam goes well with Potato stew, Egg curry , Chicken or Beef stew , Beef Olarthiyathu (Beef fry), Spicy chicken curry , Kadala (black chickpea) curry etc.

I will try to post these recipes as soon as possible so that you can enjoy Paal Appam even more.
Hope you'll enjoy making this recipe and its good as a Breakfast item or can be enjoyed for Dinner.

I'm planning to join the fun at the Kerala Kitchen Event this month being hosted by Khushi of A Girl's Diary. Why don't you come join me too ! :-)

- Manju