Monday, December 20, 2010

Baking With Dorie: Sablés

I love Sablés - especially chocolate ones. But since we're baking World Peace Cookies  next & they're almost Sablés-like (and may I mention they are the best cookies, ever!), I decided not to tinker with this recipe too much and wait to get my chocolate fix next time.

So I went ahead with the spice version suggested by Dorie Greenspan & while I was fumbling around in my kitchen cabinets looking for coarse sugar, I came across a packet of peppermint candy & thought what fun it would be to roll these cookies in crushed candy . . forgetting the fact that the candy would melt in the oven . . . and so 20 minutes later I was scraping all of this from the bottom of the cookies . . 

Just remind me to stick to the recipe next time! 

That said, the cookie dough was slightly tricky. I haven't made this kind of cookie in a while & Dorie's instructions said to not over-mix the dough. So I was over-cautious but then I was using a hand-held mixer so I had to beat just slightly longer than I was supposed to, and my resulting cookie-dough was just a little smoother than it was probably meant to be. 

I divided the dough and used just one half to make cookies this morning. They're really good: buttery (though not very crumbly because I figure I overmixed the dough), sandy, and taste somewhat like a snickerdoodle. But since I'm not very fond of snickerdoodles, I have a feeling I would have loved the lemon version more and intend to try it out some time between now and the next BWD challenge

Please do check out the other BWD bakers here. For the recipe, head over to Laurie's blog Cookin' up North, or page 131 of Baking from my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan

Next up, we're baking World Peace Cookies, picked by Rebecca. If you'd like to join our baking challenge, please email me at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along with us!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Baking With Dorie: Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake

Cheesecake had never been my forte until I discovered Dorie Greenspan. And so I felt pretty confident about tackling this recipe when Jen picked it for this week. Besides, what was not to love about the thought of apples, cinnamon and brown sugar in a cheesecake?

The only thing was - I didn't want to make a big cheesecake, but then I also didn't want to do the math & divide this recipe in half. What's a lazy girl to do? 

I didn't divide the recipe in half but baked 6 mini-cheesecakes in my muffin tin as a trial version & saved the rest of the filling to use later tomorrow. I expected an epic fail once I realized that I was out of sour cream & had to substitute with yogurt. I was sure something would happen to compromise the texture of the cheesecakes & sat around with fingers crossed the entire time they were baking.

I need not have worried because the texture turned out to be everything it promises to be: creamy without being too dense, and  the surprise layer of caramelized apples is deliciously pleasing.

This may not have been one of my prettiest BWD bakes, but whatever it lacked in visual appeal is made up for by its' apple-infused dreamy-creaminess. 

Thanks to Jen for picking this recipe this week! Please head over to Jen's blog for the recipe, or to pages 238-9 of Baking: from my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan. Do head over to the blog roll & check out how the other BWD bakers' did this week. 

Next up, we're baking Sables (picked by Laurie). If you'd like to join our baking challenges, please drop me a line at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along with us! 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Taste & Create: Aloo Fry (a Potato Curry)

This is my first time participating in Taste & Create & I've been paired with Padmajha of Seduce Your Tastebuds. Padmajha has a treasure of Indian vegetarian dishes featured on her blog and I would have loved to try some of the ones I've never heard of before. But I had to pick something simple due to time constraints & so I went with Aloo Fry.

This is a simple, flavorful side dish that requires little preparation. I followed Padmajha's recipe exactly and the only minor changes I made was to add a squirt of lemon juice to the potatoes at the end. The other thing I did differently was that I waited till the onions were light brown before adding the whole spices (mustard seed, coriander seed, cumin - and a pinch of kalonji/black onion seed, which was my own addition) - quite simply because I thought if I added them in the reverse order, the spices might burn by the time the onion was browned.

You can find the recipe for Aloo Fry here.

I figured Taste & Create was a good way to shake me out of my complacency & try out new recipes. I'm looking forward to my next challenge next month! You can find out how it works here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Baking With Dorie: Applesauce Spice Bars

I finally made these! After looking through everyone else's blog posts this week, I knew I was going to love this bake & I was sure to double the glaze, as suggested by the other BWD bakers. 

These bars came together in no time at all, which made me realize I could have tried to make them sooner. And they were fabulous! Ultra-moist and almost spice-cake like, the glaze is what sends these bars truly over the edge and makes them completely irresistible. 

Thanks for choosing such a winner Chaya ! Please head over to Chaya's blog for the recipe, or to Page 117 of Baking from my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan.

Next up, we're baking the Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake (Pages 238-8). If you'd like to join our baking challenge, please drop me an email at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along with us!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Baking With Dorie - Links to BWD Bakers this week (Applesauce Spice Bars)

I'm late with my bake again. I've been far too preoccupied lately & haven't had the time to bake or blog. I promise to have it up tomorrow!

Meanwhile, here are the links to all the other BWD bakers:

The Rookie Baker

The challenge was chosen by Chaya this week.  Please head over to Chaya's blog for the recipe, or to Page 117 of Baking from my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan.

Next up, we're baking the Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake (Pages 238-8). If you'd like to join our baking challenge, please drop me an email at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along with us!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Baking With Dorie - Links to BWD Bakers this week (My Favorite Pecan Pie)

Despite my best intentions, I've been unable to bake Dorie Greenspan's Favorite Pecan Pie today. I hope to do a rewind post in two weeks. Meanwhile, here is the list of blogs participating this week (the other bakers will do rewind posts later), please be sure to check them out:

The recipe was chosen by Tina of  My Domestic Bliss this week & she tells me it's a winner! Please head over to Tina's blog for the recipe, or Page 327 of Baking: from my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan. 

Next up, we're baking Applesauce Spice Bars (Page 117). If you'd like to join our baking challenge, please drop me an email at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along with us!

Monday, November 01, 2010

An appeal for Help

This post hasn't much to do with food. But it does have to do with something that breaks my heart. 

Now that the Pakistani flood waters have receded, all the news cameras have rolled away and any little world interest that there was, has faded. But the wreckage and desolation remain. Those in affected areas are still in dire need of all the assistance they can get. The situation is anything but over.

Back in August, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon described the Pakistani floods as 'a slow-motion tsunami. It's destructive power will accumulate and grow with time. . . Make no mistake: this is a global disaster, a global challenge. It is one of the greatest tests of global solidarity in our times'.

Diseases are now on an alarming rise (cholera, skin diseases, diarrhea, malaria, respiratory-tract infections, dengue fever - to name just a few). More than 20 million have been affected by the floods and the UN estimates that 10 million are still in need of shelter, food , clean drinking water and other basics. 

8 million children and over 500,000 pregnant women are at risk because of deadly water-borne disease. 105,000 children younger than 5 years of age might die of malnutrition over the next 6 months.

What if it were your child up there? Or here:

or worst of all, what if this were your child? 

Would you not want someone to help him? 

At the onset of winter millions are still in temporary shelters, without warm clothing or food

Please, please: if you have warm clothing or blankets to spare, or an extra can of food (only beans, peas, corn or fruit - expiration date at least a year away), call up your local airport to check if the Pakistan International Airlines has a collection point in your city, and please drop off your donations there. Every little contribution counts and whatever you donate will be forwarded to Pakistan free of cost by the airline. You could find more information on their website.

People in Pakistan need your help. 

Timing is crucial - Whose suffering will you help stop today? 

(All photos are courtesy of Google Images).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Baking With Dorie: Pumpkin Muffins

There's nothing better than sleeping in late on a rare morning, and then heading down to the kitchen to bake up a batch of muffins that you can eat straight out of the oven; snuggled on the couch with your cup of coffee.

That's what I did today - trying to stretch out the quiet contentment of the sunny morning before my toddlers' friend arrived for a play date. I had figured these muffins would be a perfect snack for the kids and so I sprinkled them with chocolate-covered sunflower seeds for toddler-appeal. It worked as far attracting their attention was concerned, but unfortunately I found both kids making a mountain out of crumbs a few minutes after they sat down to eat these muffins.. ! I guess you just can't win them all.

But that is not to say that these muffins aren't good - they are moist and have just a subtle hint of spiciness and mild sugary sweetness with an agreeable blend of textures ranging from the soft chewiness of the raisins and pecans to the pleasing crunch from the sunflower seeds. I liked that these muffins were delicately spiced,  tender and not too sweet - perfect with cup of coffee. And so much healthier than our previous bakes!

Thank you for choosing this recipe this week Elizabeth!

For a gluten-free version of this dessert, please visit Elizabeth's blog Gluten-Free Baking 101. For the original recipe, visit Chaya's blog at My Sweet and Savory or Page 13 of Baking from my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan.

To check out the other BWD bakers, visit the blogroll here. Our next challenge is 'My Favorite Pecan Pie' picked by Tina of My Domestic Bliss. If you'd like to join our baking challenge, please drop me an email at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along with us!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Devils Food Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

My sons' evolving preferences over the years have me confronting increasingly challenging trials in birthday cake-decorating. In fact this is the first year that I completely failed him on that account. It would have been so much easier to just pick up a cake from a bakery but I take birthday cakes very seriously and what I lack in decorating talent as well as punctuality, I make up for with the sheer determination to make my kids birthday cakes that they will remember throughout the year.

But despite my best intentions, I just couldn't deliver this time: there I was at 4 a.m., just having finished frosting a 2-layer 9x13" cake, struggling to 'draw' Ben 10 with tinted buttercream, and failing. Miserably. An hour, and several errors later, I gave up and scraped the offensive Ben 10 figure off, replacing it with candy cake decorations. I then dropped it off at the school, sending up a prayer that the cake itself would appeal to my picky sons' taste buds.

Once he got home from school, I was rewarded with the very rare compliment that 'everything about the cake was so, so delicious' as well as a request to make it again over the weekend. The second time around, I decided to keep it simple and made a 2-layer 9-inch cake. It took us a couple of days to eat through it, and it seemed that the flavors just intensified the longer this cake sat around in the fridge.

The cake recipe can be found on Gourmet here.

The brown sugar cream cheese frosting is a twist on the classic cream cheese frosting and is one of my favorites ways to frost cupcakes. It comes from Joy the Baker and it paired so well with the chocolate in the cake, that I may never use any other kind of frosting ever again!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Baking With Dorie: Kids' Thumbprints

My daughter and I are the real peanut butter lovers in our house. So my reason behind choosing this recipe was just so I could have some fun making these with her. Halfway into rolling the cookie dough into balls, I realized this had been a bad idea because my daughter insisted she was handling play-doh and soon everything was going to end up all over the kitchen floor. So I took over the dough and allowed her to poke holes into the center of each cookie, using a wooden spoon.  I had to make them  a little larger than teaspoon-sized because my daughter kept smashing them while trying to poke the hole! The end result was a little messy looking cookie, but we did have a lot of fun baking them together. 

These buttery, shortbread-like cookies were a big hit with my toddler, her favorite part being the strawberry jam center.  

Kids' Thumbprints

1.5 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter - crunchy (Dorie's choice) or smooth
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg, separated
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 large egg white
1 1/2 cups roasted peanuts (salted or unsalted), finely chopped
about 3/4 cup jam or jelly (cherry, raspberry, strawberry and  blueberry are particularly good)

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. 

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter, peanut butter and sugars together on medium speed until very light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the vanilla and egg yolk and continue to beat until well blended. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, mixing only until incorporated. 

Put the 2 egg whites in a small bowl and beat them with a fork until slightly frothy. Put the chopped nuts in another bowl. 

Working with a teaspoon of dough at a time, roll the dough between your palms to form balls, turn them in the egg whites till completely coated and then drop them into the nuts and roll to coat. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Steadying each cookie with the thumb and finger of one hand, use the pinkie of your other hand (or the end of a wooden spoon) to poke a hole in the center of each cookie. Be careful not to go all the way down to the baking sheet. 

Bake for 15 - 18 minutes, rotating sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway mark. The cookies will be lightly golder. Using a wide metal spatula, transfer them to a rack. 

Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheets before baking a new batch. 

Put the jam or jelly in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil, stirring, over low heat. Using a small spoon, fill each thumbprint with hot jam. Allow the cookies - and especially the jam - to cool to room temperature, at which point the jam will form a shiny , nonsticky finish. 

Thank you to all the BWD bakers for baking along with me this week. Please check out the blogroll here to see everyone elses's thumbprint cookies, and please note that the gluten-free version of these cookies will be up on Elizabeths' blog Gluten-Free Baking 101 tomorrow (Tuesday). We are baking Pumpkin Muffins next, picked by Elizabeth. If you'd like to join our baking challenge, please email me at  needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along with us! 

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Pecan Pie Mini-Tarts with Yogurt Cheese Pastry

I'm in love with the buttery smell that comes from my hands and fills the air when I make tarts and pies.

And despite all my best intentions not to do any rich baking, here I was again - leafing through my cook books yesterday and stopping at each mention of these sinful treats. . . I spent the past week mostly away from the internet - just to make my days a little less complicated, to kick back and enjoy a rare break in routine and to, once again, make time for things I enjoy best.

And that brings me to these mini-tarts. The pecan-pie filling is crusty on top, chewy-gooey on the inside. They are a snap to make and I found them too tempting not to share.

Pecan Pie Tarts with Yogurt Cheese Pastry

For the Tart Shells:
 1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
3 ounces (6 tbsp) yogurt cheese
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup flour

For the Filling:
 1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 tbsp butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
To make the tart shells: 

Preheat Oven to 350. 
Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the mixture forms a ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. 

Flour  hands and shape dough into 24 balls. Press dough with fingers up the sides of a mini muffin tin to fill each muffin cup. Set aside. 
Stir together the ingredients in a small bowl until mixed. 

Fill each tart shell about 2/3 full and bake 25-30 minutes. Cool tarts in pan for 5 minutes and then remove to cooling rack. 

Dust with powdered sugar or top with a dollop of whipped cream to serve. Makes 24 mini-tarts.

Go on - take a bite . . .

Saturday, October 02, 2010

A Taste of Yellow: Brazillian Coffee Bananas

I wanted to make something for LiveStrong Day by participating in the Taste of Yellow blogging event hosted by I came across this blog only today and wanted to be a part of the event. The rules are simple: photograph a yellow food and somehow feature a heart into the photo.Easy.

The harder part was to decide what to make, and what to include in this post. Food-blogging and stories related to chronic disease don't go hand in hand. As food-bloggers we tend to stick to recounting our cooking adventures, and it isn't possible for a reader to look at a food blog without imagining happy times and the joy of sharing a good meal with friends and family. The reality of the writer can sometimes be different and at some point in our lives, each one of us has experienced trials, problems or the heartache of losing a loved one.

October 2 this year is LiveStrong Day - and the Taste of Yellow blogging event is a small way to contribute to the effort of the LiveStrong Foundation to spread awareness about Cancer, as well as the need for Cancer-research for new drugs and treatment. It gives food bloggers an opportunity to not only support the cause, but also to share personal stories and to dedicate the hearts in these posts to family members or friends touched by Cancer.

My heart goes to those I personally know - some having succumbed to, and some struggling with the disease. . 

This is my first time participating in the Taste of Yellow event and I chose to make something simple that I could fix immediately. This tasteful little dessert is as simple as it gets: 

Brazillian Coffee Bananas
 (from Bananas, Page 52)

4 small, ripe bananas
1 tbsp boiling water
1 tbsp coffee granules
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp Greek Style Yogurt
2 tbsp toasted, slivered Almonds (I skipped these)

Peel and slice one banana. Mash the remaining bananas in a bowl. Dissolve the coffee in the water and stir into mashed bananas.

Spoon a little of the Coffee-Banana mixture into 4 small dishes, and sprinkle with brown sugar. Top with a spoonful of yogurt. Repeat layers until all the ingredients are used up. 

Use a tooth-pick to swirl the last layer of yogurt for a marbled effect and finish off with a few sliced bananas and slivered almonds. Serve cold, within an hour of making. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Baking With Dorie: Banana Cream Pie

I have to confess that when Rebecca chose this recipe for this weeks' BWD challenge, I groaned a bit inwardly thinking we were tackling yet another super-rich dessert & I have the hard-to-lose weight to prove the damage some of these recent bakes have done!

However, I've never made a banana cream pie before so I was excited to try and started planning my bake over a week ago. I was a little torn between trying the original version & a variation I had dreamed up. I even asked Dorie for advice and she steered me back on track and urged me to try the original recipe and play around with it later, when I have more time. And boy, am I glad that I followed the recipe exactly - because this is not a run of the mill Banana Cream Pie: the pastry cream is layered over sliced bananas and is rich but not overly sweet - the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg take the flavor up a notch without overwhelming it. It is topped with a cloud of barely-sweet whipped cream with a hint of tanginess from the sour cream. All of that goodness scooped into Dorie's flaky good-for-everything pie crust : in one word, sublime. 

I apologize for the late post and am also sorry that despite all my planning, I waited until the 11th hour to make the pie and then I almost ruined it - just look at that pie crust: what is all that speckly stuff??! 

I have made the pie crust so many times for previous BWD challenges that I could probably make it with my eyes closed - but I messed up this time. I over-worked it and kind of burned it because I made the pie in such a hurry. My pastry cream was made a night before but when I got ready to bake the crust and assemble the pie on Monday morning I got a phone call from a friend and had to rush to the hospital within the next two hours : I had promised to be present at her birth & it seemed it was time for her to go. So I baked the crust, assembled and photographed the pie - all on fast-forward - before I ran out of the house. 

And then I went from baking pies to witnessing miraculous birth. What an exhilarating, intense, lovely and emotional day! 

Two sweet endings in one day. Can it get better than that? 

For the recipe, please head over to Rebecca's blog Beurrista, or pages 342-3 of Baking: From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan. Thanks for choosing this wonderful recipe Rebecca!

Next up, we're baking Cherry Fudge Brownie Torte (Pages 284-5 of BFMHTY), chosen by me! If you'd like to join us for our baking challenge, please email me at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along with us! 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Late with posting my BWD challenge

This is just a short note to let you know I've had to get away for something urgent and will be late posting this weeks' challenge. My post will be up tomorrow (Tuesday).
Meanwhile, please check the BWD blogroll here to check out the other bakers, and for the recipe for Dorie Greenspan's Banana Cream Pie, please head over to Rebecca's blog Beurrista, or pages 342-3 of Baking: From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Baking With Dorie: Chocolate Chunkers

Dorie says these cookies are fabulous - and so who am I to argue?

Between you and me, I can't stop snacking on them since I made them yesterday. They're insanely good. Almost like a fabulously fudgey-brownie masquerading as a cookie. With a whopping 19 oz of different kinds of chocolate going into the batter, these are a chocolate-lovers dream come true. 

Want to see what I mean by fudgy? Take a look: 
And there's not just chocolate - there are nuts and dried fruit going in there too. I mistakenly added 1.5 cups of whole peanuts instead of chopped ones, so there were a lot of nuts in my cookies, but I really enjoyed the added toasty-crunch and the saltiness from the peanuts. The only thing I would change next time is that I would use dried cherries instead of raisins because they would add more color and contrast in flavor. 

This was Laurie's first pick - thank you Laurie for picking this recipe! Please head over to Laurie's blog Cookin' Up North for the recipe. You can otherwise find the recipe on pages 70-72 of Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Dorie suggests churning crushed bits of these cookies into home-made ice cream. So I made a pint of Dorie's wonderful & creamy Vanilla Ice Cream (Page 428 of BFMHTY) and added in broken bits of these chocolate chunkers for a twist on my husbands' favorite Cookies n' Cream ice cream. I'm saving it for him till he gets back over the weekend, so I have no idea how good it tastes. But by the looks of it, it's a winner.

Please check out the blogroll here to see what all the other wonderful BWD bakers did with this weeks' recipe. 

Next up, we're baking Banana Cream Pie (Pages 342-3, BFMHTY), chosen by Rebecca of Beurrista. If you'd like to join the challenge, please email me at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake along with us.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Baking With Dorie: Milk Chocolate Mini-Bundt Cakes

First of all, I am so sorry for the belated post. My blogger account acted up last night and wouldn't let me publish on time.

That said, weeks' recipe was chosen by Jennifer, The Rookie Baker, and I enjoyed it more than I had expected to. I went the cupcake route (since I don't own a mini-bundt pan) and also skipped the swirl altogether. Un-frosted, these turned out to be a perfect treat. 

The chocolate flavor in these cakes is not as overwhelming as I had hoped for it to be, but they are wonderfully moist and have just the right balance of sweetness making the glaze almost unnecessary. I have to stress on 'almost' because I am sure that if I had gotten the glaze right, these cupcakes would have been even more wonderful. 

I tried, honestly I did. But all I got was an un-spreadable blob. Let's call it my first BFMHTY-fail. I'm sure there is a way to get it right, but it just didn't work for me this time. See:

Looks more like a thick frosting than glaze :(
But my daughter loved it

For the recipe, please head over to pages 188-9 of Baking: From My Home To Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, or Jennifers' blog and take a look at the BWD blogroll to see how the BWD bakers did this week.

Next up, we're baking Chocolate Chunkers (Page 70, BFMHTY) chosen by Laurie of Cookin' Up North. If you'd like to join us, please drop me an email at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have you bake with us!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Baking With Dorie: Brown Sugar Bundt Cake

Chaya saved me the effort of making myself a birthday cake tomorrow by choosing this recipe for the BWD challenge this week. It's just what I wanted: simple, non-fussy and, judging by the deliciously caramel-sweet aroma of brown sugar and apples infusing my house, deeply comforting and flavorful. 

I'm afraid I can't say much about the flavors because I haven't sliced into it as yet - I'm doing what Dorie suggests and keeping it on the kitchen counter, tightly-wrapped. Till tomorrow. So that I can have myself a birthday cake. And I'm so sure it's a winner, like every recipe of Dories' that I've baked so far. 

You can find the recipe on Chaya's blog or on Page 179 of Baking: From My Home To Yours, by Dorie Greenspan. Be sure to check out the other BWD bakers here and here. This week we were joined by two new bakers - welcome Laurie & Rebecca

Our next challenge, coming up on August 30th, is Milk Chocolate Mini-Bundt Cakes on pages 188-9 of Baking: From My Home To Yours and has been chosen by Jennifer. If you'd like to join us, please drop me an email at needfulthings at ymail dot com. We'd love to have  you bake along with us!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

M&M and Chocolate Chip Cookies

It is my sons' first day at school today. Also his first day in the 1st grade and in a new school.. I felt the same tug at my heart this morning, leaving him in his new class, that I had felt the day I dropped him off at his Kindergarten class for the first time. According to my husband I am quite literally worse than my kids and have more separation-anxiety than they do.

Sigh. Where did my baby boy go? 

That's him, hiding his face with his hand and probably thinking, 'Get a grip Mom'.


Okay, I admit - I'm having an emotionally-wrenching kind of day. But lets get over that already.  Let me introduce to you my sons' favorite chocolate chip cookies. The ones he requested as an after-school snack today - with 'a glass of really, really cold milk'. 

The recipe is very slightly adapted from Dorie Greenspans' 'Best Chocolate Chip Cookies'  & is the first recipe of Dories' that I ever tried, a little over two years ago. Much before I owned her book and before starting to Bake With Dorie. I've made these cookies several ways, countless times. My most favorite way to make them is the 'cocoa chocolate' version with peppermint extract - it's like biting into an After Eight chocolate. 

But I didn't make them that way today. I had started by wanting to - but when I was measuring out the dry ingredients, I 'forgot' to add cocoa powder and only realized my mistake when the cookie batter came together and it wasn't brown. Oops.

Too late to turn back, so I threw in M&Ms for fun instead of nuts. From the grin on my boys' face, I can tell they're yummy.

M&M and Chocolate Chip Cookies
slightly adapted from Dorie Greenspans' Best Chocolate Chip Cookies, found on Page 68 of Baking: From My Home To Yours

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp peppermint extract
2 large eggs
12 ounces or 2C chocolate chips
1 cup finely M & Ms

Center a rack in the oven and preheat oven to 375F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. 

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. 

In a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the sugars and beat for 2 more minutes. Beat in the vanilla and then add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Reduce the speed and add in the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing only until each addition is incorporated. Mix in the chocolate chips and M&Ms. 

Scoop tablespoons of dough onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each spoonful (these cookies spread a lot). 

Bake for 10 - 12 minutes (rotating the sheet at the midway point) or until they are brown on the edges and golden in the middle. Remove from oven, allow to cool on sheets for 1 minute before removing to wire rack to cool.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Channa Daal Curry and Thoughts Worth Thinking. . .

Ramadan is the muslim month of fasting and creating anew ones' intimacy with God. According to Quranic teaching, God is always as close to us as our jugular vein, and His compassion and blessings are especially prevalent throughout the month of Ramadan.

So, the onset of Ramadan is a joyful celebration; a chance to reflect over the past year and renew our pledge to improve ourselves in the year to come. And realizing, in that final moment of hunger and weakness before breaking fast at sunset, that all sustenance belongs to God and it is by His Grace alone that we are able to eat our sunset meal at all.

This year, however, the mood around my Ramadan table is somber. As we break our fast, the thought of suffering in Pakistan (a crisis much bigger than the Tsunami) is not far from our minds. At present one-fifth of the country is submerged under water, the lives of over 14 million people have been affected because entire villages have been wiped out leaving over 250, 000 homeless, an estimated $1 billion worth of crops have been destroyed... To further compound the situation, water-borne disease has broken out. It's all the more painful that this should happen in Ramadan - the holiest month of the year.

It's no wonder I don't have much of an appetite, despite a 14.5 hour fast. Ramadan is a time of charity, but here I am - unable to do anything. To really do anything to help anyone. The realization that I have so much for be thankful for is a hollow one when faced with the other realization that while my family and I enjoy a cozy meal each evening, there are millions who have no access to clean water or nutritious food and that they long for a place called home. .*(please read post note)

Praise be to God who blessed us with food to eat, water to drink, homes to live in and our families surrounding us. . may He have mercy on all the suffering souls and may He accept our fasting, all our prayers and good intentions this blessed month. Ramadan Kareem, everyone.

And now I bring you Channa Daal Curry: a simple, satisfying, every-day curry. I made it today with zucchini although it's traditionally made with either pumpkin or bottle gourd. 

Channa Daal and Zucchini Curry

1 cup channa daal, washed and pre-soaked for 1-2 hours
2 cups water
1 cup zucchini, diced (about 3-4 small)
1 large onion, sliced
2 tomatoes, diced into small cubes

2 tsp minced ginger
2-3 green whole chillies, stalks removed (I used birds-eye because I like the extra heat)
1 tbsp lime or lemon juice
1 heaped teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (I actually used only 1/4 because I was using birds eye green chillies)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder2 tbsp fresh, chopped coriander
2-3 tbsp cooking oil

Heat cooking oil in a pan and add sliced onions. Fry around 15 minutes on medium heat, or until golden-brown.

Add all the dry spices, along with a small splash of water (so that the spices don't burn) and stir fry for a minute or so. Add the diced tomato as well as the whole green chillies and cook until the tomatoes are mushy and the oil separates (around 5 minutes).

Now add the zucchini, stirring it well to make sure it is coated with the tomato mixture. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add in the daal, water and salt. Mix well, cover and let cook on medium-low heat for approx. 20 minutes. Test to make sure that the daal is fully cooked before removing from heat.

Stir in the lemon or lime juice as well as the chopped coriander and serve right away. For me, this daal is delicious all on its' own & I eat it with a spoon. But it is served with either Roti (flat bread) or rice.

(Post-note: after publishing this post, I came across a link to a blog listing one of many non-governmental organizations that are helping the relief effort in Pakistan. If you would like to lend a hand, visit the blog here and this organization here, here or here . And here's another very comprehensive list of ways you can help)

Monday, August 09, 2010

How To Eat a Mango - Part 2

There is no civilized way to enjoy a mango. The sweet, juicy flesh and inedible skin make it a difficult fruit to eat without making a huge mess. And some would argue that getting all sophisticated about consuming mangoes takes away the fun of eating them altogether. And I agree.

But this post isn't really about how to slice and eat mangoes. It's about a cherished memory from an otherwise mostly forgotten part of my life: while I was growing up, it was an unspoken tradition that I would spend some time during the summer each year with my best friend and her family. One morning, during one of my visits at their home, Uncle A. (my best friends' father) asked me if I'd like to have Mangoes, Parathas (flat bread) and Lassi (yogurt drink) for breakfast. I couldn't wrap my mind around the combination of breakfast items - in fact, it was plain bizarre to me. But I was too curious to turn it down.

So we all sat around the breakfast table while Uncle A. showed me how to eat mango with parathas: take a bite of mango, followed by a bite from the paratha... Or scoop some mango flesh into a piece of paratha. Wash it down with a sip of sweet, frothy Lassi. It was strangely delightful. Eating mangoes all by themselves is delicious enough, making a meal out of them was an indulgent treat; the memory of which is heart-warming.

And so, this morning, I treated myself to a healthy dose of mangoes and remembrance of times past. I'm only sorry I didn't have my best friends, R & H to share it with this time around.

 Sweet Lassi 

1 cup yogurt
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup ice cubes
3 teaspoons sugar
a pinch of salt

Blend all the ingredients on high speed until the ice is crushed and the mixture is frothy. Pour into glasses and drink right away.


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