Nov 26, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving to you all and justsomethis&that.... :-)

Hello people... If anyone’s been wondering why I’m not so active on the blog lately or why haven’t I been posting any seasonal recipes etc , then here’s the reason : my 6 year old Laptop has decided todie on's not loading the pages as fast as I want it to, keeps restarting whenever I don’t want it to, is missing the L, M and V keys (thanks to lil’Appu), my space bar doesn’t work at all leavingstatementstolooklikethis (as how i left in my title as well) and by the time I’m done with a post literally banging on my space bar for it to work I am this-close to going mad and crazy which is not what my family needs anytime at all…Lol! So pls bear with me folks until I can get these minor yet annoying issues rectified and hopefully the Black Friday deals will save my day and my blog ;-)

So how many of you are celebrating or cooking for Thanksgiving this year?  I’m celebrating alright, 'by eating' and not gonna do any cooking at all for a change. We along with some of our close friends have decided to just eat out and go straight into Black Friday shopping and shop all night ;-) Not that I have a huge shopping list or anything, but I love the energy and excitement that you see on Black Friday nights and the Malls look so fancy and glamorous, and it’s crazy cold outside, which makes you laugh even if you don’t want to…so its fun!! Hopefully lil’Appu will find it fun too and help by sleeping through it all…keeping my fingers crossed on that…

I'm not sharing any new recipe here today, but just re-sharing a yummy dessert I made last year for a Thanksgiving dinner potluck and it was enjoyed by all....A gorgeous Pumpkin Trifle (click link for more pics). Do give it a try if you are still deciding on what to make for dessert.

I'm just copy-pasting my recipe from last year...enjoy!

Pumpkin Trifle Recipe

You'll need
For Gingerbread Cake
Gingerbread Cake mix - 1 box (I used 14oz box)
Egg - 1
Water - 3/4 cup
Oil - 1 cup
For Pumpkin Pudding
Instant Pudding -  3 boxes (I used Jello brand , Cheesecake flavor)
Cold Milk - 2 cups for each pudding box (so total of 6 cups)
Canned Pumpkin Puree -1 can (15oz)
Pumpkin spice mix - 1 tsp Cinnamon powder + 1/4 tsp each Dry Ginger powder + Nutmeg + Allspice
For Whipped Cream topping
Heavy Whipping cream - 2 cups
Powdered Sugar - 1/4 cup
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp

For Cake
Bake the Gingerbread Cake mix as per box instructions- mix together the egg, water, oil and Gingerbread cake mix and bake for 30-35mins at 350F. Allow it to cool and crumble the cake.
For Pumpkin Pudding
a. Prepare the pudding as per package instructions - Add 2 cups of cold milk to 1 pack Jello instant pudding and allow it to set for 5 mins. Repeat the same for the other pudding boxes.
b. Once pudding is set, mix the canned pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice mix into the pudding and combine it until smooth.
For Whipped Cream
Prepare the whipped cream by beating together cold heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract on high until the cream is smooth forming soft peaks.

Assembling the mini Pumpkin Trifle
I have used mini 5oz cups.
Layer with 1 tblsp crumbled Gingerbread Cake. Next add 2 tblsp Pumpkin pudding, then add 2 tblsp Gingerbread Cake crumbs and top with 2 tblsp whipped cream. Garnish with Chocolate sprinkles or some gingerbread cake crumbs.
(This made around 20 or 24 mini dessert trifles)

Suggestions and Tips:
1. You can use Vanilla / Butterscotch flavored instant pudding if you'd like. I wasn't very fond of the cheesecake flavor, but Manish loved it. So I guess its just personal preference.
2. Add more or less pumpkin spice as per taste preference. I added a pinch more than the above recipe for a stronger flavor.
3. If you don't have gingerbread cake mix, feel free to use Chocolate cake, I bet it would taste exceptional. And anything with a sweet whipped cream topping always tastes heavenly!
4. You can use frozen and ready-to-use whipped cream if you prefer :-)

Have a gorgeous Thanksgiving if you are celebrating and let'sallenjoysomeshopping...oh,well there goes my space bar... :-) See you soon!!


Nov 17, 2013

Spiced Mango Fudge | Mango Burfi

Mango has and will always be my most favorite fruit. Gorgeously yellow, ripe, juicy and sweet! 
I still remember my joy at coming to know in 3rd grade that Mango was also known as ‘The King of fruits’, I almost felt like I got an A+ for liking a fruit that was also considered a King…well u know how kids think ;-) Another fond memory that i recollect is being allowed to eat an entire Mango all by myself while vacationing in Kerala. Simple things sure does bring a lot of happiness and pleasure doesn't it?

I absolutely love making desserts or drinks with our King of fruits when it's in season or enjoy them just as it is. But if mangoes aren’t in season and you feel like making a mango treat, canned mango pulp always comes to the rescue. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of it and it does taste rather artificial and overly sweet, but then who’s complaining. I get to make my mango treat and eat them too…that’s all that matters right? Oh and share it with friends as well…

I had already made Mango Coconut laddoos once before using mango pulp and they had received quite a lot of good reviews and has been tried by several of my friends. So I wanted to try something different this time. As my mind was brimming up with fusion Indian dessert ideas for Diwali, I thought of trying out an Indian flavored fudge and this mango fudge spiced with cardamom and dried ginger and garnished with pistachios and saffron was just the perfect treat.

I used Oats powder as the binder in this recipe, so you can say, it’s a healthy dessert of sorts too…mayb we can have these fudge bars for breakfast, hmm…wishful thinking …Lol! 
But they are delicious and sweet and we loved it. The mild spice , crunchy pistachios on top and the sweet sweet fudge, its a perfect dessert bite.

Spiced Mango Fudge

You'll need
Sweetened Mango Pulp – 2 cups
Paneer**, grated – 3 cups 
Sugar – 1 cup or ¾ cup (adjust as preferred)
Instant or Quick quicking Oats, powdered – 2 or 2 ½ cups (use as needed)
Cardamom powder – 1 tsp
Dry Ginger Powder – ¼ tsp
Butter or Ghee – to grease your tray
For Garnish
Roasted unsalted Pistachios, coarsely chopped/slivered – around 2-3  tblsp
Saffron strands – a pinch (optional)
** I did not make homemade Paneer and used Frozen paneer instead, but homemade is highly recommended

1. In a non-stick kadai or deep bottomed vessel heat the mango pulp, sugar and paneer until it becomes thick (approx 3-5 mins).
2. Add the cardamom powder and dried ginger powder and mix well.
3. Finally add the powdered oats and combine it all until it becomes thick and sticky yet comes together  like a sticky dough.
4. Immediately transfer into a greased tray, garnish on top with chopped pistachios and saffron and allow the fudge to rest and cool down. Once cooled, cut into squares and enjoy!

--These can be refrigerated for about 3-4 days and still taste great!

1. If you substitute the powdered oats in this recipe with Milk powder, the recipe would almost be exactly similar to that of a Mango Kalakhand.
2. Add Khoya/Khowa instead of Paneer for a richer fudge.
3. If using fresh mangoes instead of sweetened mango pulp, please add more sugar as per taste preference.
4. Fresh homemade paneer is best for this dessert, but I used frozen store-bought paneer and I noticed it became slightly chewy after getting cooked, but tasted great nevertheless.

The day I made this, I shared a snap on my facebook page and asked people to guess what it was, and I got such a huge response. Almost the same kinda response I get whenever I post cakes ;-) Some thought it was Gajar ka Halwa, others thought it was a Pumpkin halwa, but some guessed it as Mango Kalakhand and I thought, its almost close to a Kalakhand recipe, so you can call it that as well I guess :-)

So try it out and enjoy these golden'll love them!

Also today is my parents 30th wedding anniversary, making this fudge doubly special for sharing today. Here's wishing you plenty more years of togetherness dear Mummy & Daddy...Muah! :-)


Nov 7, 2013

Carrot Halwa Chocolates and Laddoos - my fusion Indian sweets

So it snowed here, like two days ago....non-stop and all night and my lil’Appu kept staring out the patio door saying ‘my shoe’. I was confused, I went over to him  trying to stop him from opening the patio door and he kept saying softly, ‘Appu shoe… cold’ and then I saw, his tiny lil’blue Crocs all getting slowly covered in the snow on our patio deck. I scooped up my little bundle, gave him a tight hug and kiss and told him we’ll get his shoes out in the morning and he happily obliged. They are so forgiving and for some reason I just felt a huge flashwave of love towards my lil’innocent bundle who thought his shoes would get too cold in the snow. Just felt like sharing the moment here :-)

Anyways, Thanksgiving and Christmas preps are going around in full swing all around me. Before I loose track let me share the Gajar Halwa Chocolates and some Carrot Halwa Coconut Laddoos that I made for Diwali this year. 

I already shared the Carrot Halwa or Gajar Ka Halwa recipe and since I had planned on making fusion sweets, I planned to use my gajar halwa as fillings inside chocolates and I used White chocolate and Milk Chocolate flavored Candy Melts for the same.
(Candy Melts almost behave like tempered chocolates and retain their shape and form even at room temp. If you do not have Candy Melts, use tempered and good quality chocolate)

I used my silicone heart and flower shaped ice-cube trays. I started with the White chocolates in the heart shaped tray and everything worked fine with the filling and shaping, however while un-molding some of my chocolates cracked up as the outer layer was too thin :-( 

my first batch
I was almost tempted to drop the whole plan and you can also see that the finish of the chocolates weren't too neat. But after few hours I was feeling more clam and I thought I'd give it one more try and went ahead and made few of the flower shaped chocolates with Milk Chocolate and they worked out fine. Thank goodness! 

I only made around 10 White chocolate Gajar Halwa Hearts and 8 Chocolate Gajar Halwa Flowers (not counting the broken pieces) 

For the remaining Gajar Halwa I just went ahead and scooped it out into mini bite sized balls using my melon baller and coated them in some dried coconut and placed them in mini liner cups for a fancy look and got a total of 14 Carrot halwa Coconut Laddoos ;-) 

And this was what it all finally looked like….Ta-Daaah!! ;-D  
(Here I haven't shown all the sweets I made, just the amount that would fit on the pate)

In my opinion White Chocolate paired really well with the Gajar Halwa, with its milky creaminess yet retaining the pronounced taste of the sweet carrot pudding. But I’m biased and prefer milk chocolate to white choc anyday, so I kinda liked that more.  

As I was simply experimenting here, I do not have a perfect count on how many chocolates this might yield or how many laddoos etc.  So my humble opinion is to just go with your instincts and the amount of gajar halwa you have  ;-)

Carrot Halwa Hearts
You’ll need
Wilton candy Melts (Vanilla Flavor) – ½ cup 
Carrot Halwa – ½ cup or as needed
Heart shaped Silicone mold

1. Melt the candy melts in microwave or using a double boiler making sure the vessel does not touch the water until creamy and smooth.
2. Use a teaspoon or pointed pastry brush to coat some chocolate all around the inside cavity of your molds. Make sure the centre is empty and free for the filling. Use a dough scraper or backside of a knife to scrape out any excess chocolate from the top of the molds and refrigerate for 5 minutes.
3. Fill the inside with gajar halwa (carrot pudding) leaving some space for the chocolate layer that will form the bottom of your chocolate and again refrigerate for 5 mins to firm up.
4. Make sure the candy melts are still melted and smooth, else microwave again. Add chocolate over the top of the carrot halwa and make sure it fills the entire top portion in the shape of your mold. Before the chocolate hardens, scrape out any excess chocolate making a smooth base. If too much chocolate comes off disclosing the carrot halwa , again apply some chocolate and scrape away any excess gently. Again refrigerate for 5 mins.
5. Once the chocolate hardens, gently press it out of the mold onto a serving plate and continue to refrigerate. 

Carrot Halwa Flowers

You’ll need
Wilton candy Melts (Light Cocoa or Dark Cocoa) – ½ cup 
Carrot Halwa – ½ cup or as needed
Flower shaped Silicone mold

Repeat the same steps as done above for the White Chocolate Carrot Halwa Hearts, but using Wilton’s Light Cocoa or Dark Cocoa flavors for a Chocolaty flavor.

Carrot Halwa Coconut Laddoos

You'll Need
Dried Coconut flakes - as needed 
Mini cupcake liners or decorative liners 
Ghee- to grease palms

1. Grease your palm with some ghee. Use a melon baller / small icecream scoop /teaspoon to scoop out Gajar Halwa and roll them into balls.
2. Drop them into a bowl filled with coconut flakes and roll them over until the flakes are coated all over the Gajar Halwa.
3. Shake off any excess coconut flakes and place them onto mini cupcake liners before serving.

They looked really attractive and no one guessed the chocolates had gajar halwa inside them or that it was homemade unless I told them and everyone enjoyed it. Some of my friends really loved the Carrot Halwa Laddoos more and loved the way it was made.  It’s a fun and different way to serve our traditional Indian sweets don’t you think?

Try making some for your next friend’s gathering and surprise your guests. Even kids can help in making these, it’s so easy and ofcourse they might help in eating them all too…so watch out!! ;-)


Nov 4, 2013

Gajar ka Halwa (Indian Carrot Pudding) - pressure cooker version using condensed milk

Let me begin by wishing you all a very Happy Diwali. I hope you all had tons of fun with lighting up your homes with beautifully decorated diyas, bursting lots of firecrackers and of course eating plenty of sweets and savories and got a chance to spend some quality chance with your friends and family. Diwali is the most celebrated Indian festival and its known as the Festival of Lights!

I grew up abroad, just like how my son is growing up now (and by abroad I mean ‘not in India’), so the only reason I know a lot about Indian food, Indian festivals, cultures and rituals is because of my parents influence on us. Not just my parents, but our Indian neighbors, school friends, the indian shops etc. So apart from authentic Keralite festivals, we used to celebrate all possible Indian festivals at home, atleast by making some special food or calling friends home etc.  So I want my son to also grow up and know all about Indian food and festivals through us.

As always I din't plan anything until the last moment and ended up making all the sweets and few savory snacks at the last moment. My plan for Diwali was mainly the dishes I wanted to take for a potluck our friends were organizing and ofcourse burst firecrackers. Anyway, I just had to take 1 item, but I felt a potluck was a good opportunity to make few more dishes and share with friends...afterall a food blogger needs taste testers ;-) 
I did not want to make just traditional Diwali sweets and wanted to try some fusion varieties and decided to make stuffed chocolates with Indian sweets as fillings. I wanted a good thick filling for the chocolates and Gajar ka Halwa was my instant choice. Afterall who does not love a good Indian Carrot Pudding.

As my main focus was on the chocolates I wanted to make a quick and instant Carrot Halwa and decided to put my pressure cooker to use and made use of sweetened condensed milk because I realized I had no sugar in the house after I finished laboriously grating 3 cups of carrots...sheesh! But it worked like a charm and tasted perfect with the creamy carrots infused with cardamom and saffron and the right balance of sweetness. 

Carrot Halwa  (Pressure cooker version using Sweetened Condensed Milk)
Recipe Source: Adapted from Edible Garden
Serves : 3 - 4 people

You’ll Need
Grated Carrots – 3 cups (packed)
Full Fat Milk – 1 ½ cups
Water – ½ cup
Sweetened Condensed Milk – 1/3 cup + 2 tblsp
Cardamom powder – ¼ tsp
Saffron strands soaked in milk – a pinch
For Garnish:
Pistachio/Broken Cashew Nuts/Slivered Almonds – 2 tblsp
Raisins – 1 tblsp
Ghee – 1 tblsp

1.  If using saffron strands, soak it in 1 tblsp milk before you start making the halwa.
2. Add the grated carrots, milk and water into a pressure cooker. Stir it well and put on the whistle and let it cook on high until you hear 2 -3 whistles. Then turn off the heat and allow the pressure go off by itself.
3. Open the lid and you’ll still see plenty of milk soaking up the carrots. Turn on the heat and cook again until the milk dries up and the carrots look grainy.
4. When the carrot mixture looks dry, add the condensed milk, saffron (with the milk it was soaked in) and cardamom powder and cook again until it reaches the consistency you prefer. (I wanted the halwa to be creamy yet dry so continued to cook until it reached a dry yet smooth texture)
5. In a separate pan, heat the ghee and fry the nuts until they brown slightly and fry the raisins until they bloom and add it to the carrot halwa. ( I added the ghee too into my halwa for more flavor)

1. I grated my carrots very thinly, but if you like bigger pieces of grated carrots use the cheese grating portion of the grater (with bigger holes)
2. If you do not prefer to fry the nuts/raisins in ghee, use oil or butter instead.
3. Saffron adds a lot of flavor , but if you do not have it, don’t worry…your halwa will still taste nice :-) But its recommended.

The Gajar ka Halwa was amazingly good and we loved it. For lil’Appu I rolled it out into balls as he loves anything that’s in a laddoo shape and he ate 2 or 3 (which is a big deal for me).

And as for the chocolates this is what is coming up next, so stay tuned and keep reading…