About Me

Hello. I started this blog to write about what I do in my chosen profession : a housewife. Some day I might cook or bake something interesting and enlist my 2 year old to help, on another day I make something from scratch instead of buying it from the store and sometimes I craft with my daughter. Once in a while, we travel or have a fun day outside. I am also doing what I can to recycle and reduce waste. I am still learning all of this and documenting my journey through this blog

Planning a Drinks, Appetizer and Dessert Party for the holidays

Last year, I had an appetizer and dessert party for the holidays. I had 5 different appetizers and desserts. I also added some homemade hot chocolate, pumpkin spice latte and rose lemonade for drinks. It took a lot of planning and almost a week of preparation to pull off comfortably. For the drinks, I kept a thermos of hot milk and the hot chocolate mix and pumpkin spice mix separately. The rose lemonade, ice and seltzer formed the cold drinks part. I only have the pictures of the dessert table which was set up beforehand. The appetizers were in the oven, to keep warm.

Dessert party table

There were around 12 people invited to the party and I grossly overestimated the amount of food that would be needed. I did not realise that one person cannot eat 5 different appetizers and 5 different desserts in a single night :) (specially since appetizers and desserts are generally so rich). I made 12-15 servings of each item. At the end of the night, I was packing food for the guests to eat as breakfast or lunch the next day. :)

So, heres what I made.

Cheesy corn dip with tortilla chips Using this recipe without the bacon and used a little less cheese
Salmon cakes with lemon butter sauce Slightly indianised this recipe for salmon cakes by removing the bacon and mayo. Added a little bit of chilli and coriander powders. Used this recipe for the sauce.
Hara bhara kabab Used my MIL's recipe
Cream cheese pinwheels Used this real easy but real tasty recipe
Indianised potato skins Adapted from this recipe Baked oil coated whole red potatoes at 400 F about an hour. Cool, cut, fill with chickpeas and bake 20 minutes at 350 F. Garnish with green and tamarind chutneys.
Thumbprint cookies Using this recipe
No bake mango cheesecake in a glass Using this recipe
Ginger bread cake with cream cheese frosting topped with walnuts Using this recipe to make two loaf cakes instead of the bundt.
Peanut butter blondies with chocolate frosting Using this recipe
Chocolate swiss roll Used this recipe for chocolate sponge. Used this recipe for whipped cream filling

I had the party on Sunday. Heres how I planned the week leading up to the party.

  1. Tuesday
    • Decide on serving bowls for each dish. Collect all tableware (plates, spoons, glasses, napkins, cups, water jug) and keep aside.
    • Prepare hot chocolate mix.
  2. Wednesday
    • Make the gingerbread cake loaves. Cool. Wrap in plastic wrap. Freeze.
    • Make pumpkin spice latte concentrate. Refrigerate.
  3. Thursday
    • Make lemon butter sauce, green chutney, tamarind chutney and refrigerate.
  4. Friday
    • Make thumbprint cookies and store in airtight container.
    • Soak chole for the potato skins
  5. Saturday
    • Make the mango cheesecake and refrigerate.
    • Cook the vegetables for the corn dip and refrigerate.
    • Make the peanut butter blondies, frost and refrigerate.
    • Make the chocolate swiss roll and refrigerate.
    • Remove the gingerbread cake and cream cheese frosting (leftover from previous project) from freezer to refrigerator.
    • Make hara bhara kabab mix and refrigerate.
    • Boil chole and refrigerate once cool.
  6. Sunday (in order from morning to evening)
    • Make chole and bake potatoes for the potato skins. Once cool, fill and set aside on a baking sheet.
    • Make corn dip using refrigerated vegetables.
    • Make hara bhara kabab tikki shapes and refrigerate.
    • Make the salmon cakes shape and refrigerate.
    • Make cream cheese pinwheels.
    • Shallow fry the hara bhara kabab and salmon cakes.
    • Bake the pinwheels.
    • Bake the potato skins.
    • Bake the corn dip.
    • Frost the gingerbread cake and decorate with walnuts.
    • Get husband to set the dessert table (cut cakes and roll into slices; blondies into squares; arrange on platters).
    • Get husband to clean up the house.
    • Make the rose flavored lemonade.
    • Set up the drinks station.
    • Place appetizers in oven to keep warm.
    • Clean yourself up and get ready to welcome the guests and enjoy your party.

Steamed methi balls in Kadhi

These days we are getting some good methi leaves in the local indian grocery store. I always pick up a couple or more bunches every time I visit. I stagger my methi preparation steps because I cannot get it all done in a day with a busy 3 year old to take care of. I pluck out the leaves one day, the next day I wash and chop them and the methi gets prepared on the third day. We do eat other vegetables that take less prep time on day 1 and 2 in case you are wondering :)

Steamed Methi balls in Kadhi

One day, while talking to my mom on the phone, she mentioned she saw a steamed methi ball in kadhi recipe on the TV that day. I had the methi all prepped and ready to go. This was as good a day as any to try the recipe based on the general idea. My daughter loved to help me make the little balls. She was inspired to eat them too :)

Fenugreek leaves steamed balls in kadhi
methi ball kadhi with a mix of white and brown rice

For Methi Balls
1 bunch methi leaves, cleaned and chopped
1 medium onion
1/2 to 1 cup besan
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chilli powder
For Kadhi
1 cup yogurt
2 cups water
2 tbsp besan
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp grated ginger
1 each green and dry red chillies
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
    For Methi Balls
  • Add salt and chilli powder to finely chopped onion and methi leaves and keep aside for 10 minutes. This will cause them to release their water.
  • Add a little besan at a time till all the released water is absorbed by the besan and a loose dough is formed.
    Methi, onion and besan dough for steamed balls
  • Make small balls from the dough and steam them for about 10 minutes. (I use a sieve basket over a pot of boiling water)
  • Methi balls ready to steam
    Steamed methi and onion balls
    For Kadhi
  • Whisk together the yogurt, water, salt and sugar and besan. (Use some amchoor powder if the yogurt is not sour)
  • Heat a tsp of oil or ghee. Add cumin seeds, asafoetida, cinnamon, cloves and the chillies. Add the grated ginger and turmeric powder.
  • Immediately add the yogurt mix. Bring to a boil on medium heat.
  • Add the methi balls and bring to a gentle boil again.
  • Serve with some rice.
I am sending this to Cooking with herbs and flowers event on the Seduce your tastebuds blog.

Christmas crafts - Pinecone Christmas trees and DIY holiday snowman cards

This week me and my daughter did some Christmasy crafts to get into the holiday spirit. We did some pinecone christmas trees and cards for the daughter's preschool teachers.

I had some pinecones lying around the house and decided to put them to good use by crafting them into Christmas trees. I had picked up some foam glitter stars from Michael's the other day. Those were used as the star tree toppers.

I did two kinds of pinecone trees. The first was very simple. Just some glitter glue and some glitter stars.
Pinecone Christmas decoration

I arranged some pinecones in a plastic tub which used to be a takeout container (reuse!). Just added some red and white glitter glue and topped with silver glitter stars. I kept it simple so the arrangement can work for other seasons with some modifications.

For the second arrangement, I went the whole wintery route.
First, I made faux snow. There are different ways to do faux snow. I opened up a clean diaper and removed the powdery stuff inside and placed it in a transparent container. I used an empty earbud container! I needed 2 pullups worth stuff. Add water to wet it to a desired fluffiness. I needed a few handfuls of water. I also mixed in some kosher salt for some sparkle. I chose this method because it makes a wet snow which will be a good anchor for the pinecone trees. And it looks very much like the real snow.
homemade fake snow for decoration
I glued on craft gem stones on the pine cones to look like christmas ornaments. I had to use goop glue for this. This task is not for little hands due to the use of heavy duty glue instead of craft glue. Topped with the glitter star, they started to look like little christmas trees. To play up the bed of snow on which they were sitting, I thought a dusting of snow on the trees would look quite nice. So we applied some craft glue with a paint brush on the pinecones and then sprinkled on lots of kosher salt. Shake off the excess and we had beautiful snow dusted christmas trees on our hands.
Pinecone Christmas trees

I love how beautiful they look for so little effort!
Pinecone christmas tree crafts

For our christmas cards, we decided to do a snowman. The cards went through some trial and error. On the first iteration, I thought, since we had used kosher salt with success for snow, we could use it again on the cards. I mixed up kosher salt and regular sugar. We applied glue on the snowman drawing on the card and sprinkled the mix on. It gave us a light coating and the snow kept falling off the more we handled the card. I did another coat of glue and snow.To help the glue go on smooth, I mixed some water in the glue. It did give us a thicker coat of snow but we would have to do a glue-water coat on top to seal the snow. The big mistake I made here was using construction paper for the card. It is just not sturdy enough to handle that many layers. So we dropped this plan. Heres how it looked when we abandoned it. It might have worked on a heavier cardstock.
snowman card with kosher salt

For the second round, I bought a heavy cardstock and cut it into card size. Actually the husband helped with the cutting. I could not cut a straight line to save my life. I cut out a snowman shape from a foam pad and decided to use it as a stamp. I glued on the snowman silhouette on a small cardboard and made a stamp.
DIY snowman stamp
Somehow this did not work out either. The stamp was too light and not clean looking at all. I am not really sure what went wrong but we dropped this plan too. We didn't have much time to rethink the stamp idea.
I still had the foam pad left after cutting the snowman out. I decided to use it.
Snowman foam cutout
I placed it on top of the card, held it firmly in place and let the daughter paint inside it with white paint. When she was done, I lifted the template to reveal the snowman. That made her very happy. When the paint dried, I added the details on the snowman with markers. I liked how the cards looked finally. Simple, minimalistic and some very good looking snowmen :)
snowman holiday cards

Citrus Marmalade muffins with almonds

I like to bake muffins as I have said before. I bake a tray of muffins and freeze the batch. It lasts us about a month. I make them healthy enough to be eaten at breakfast since they make for a quick, portable breakfast.

Today's muffins are a tad bit more indulgent. They could pass for dessert if you really try. :)
I had an overflow of citrus fruits in my fruit drawer and they were not getting eaten at all. So I made a marmalade to rescue them. The marmalade will have a blog post of its own sometime later. I made marmalade muffins from some of that homemade marmalade.

Marmalade Muffins
adapted from Poppytalk

The citrus zest and vanilla make it one amazingly scented packet. I could love it for just the smell but it tastes delicious too. I think it is a better use of marmalade than even spreading on buttered toast.

marmalade muffins

1/2 cup all purpose flour (maida)
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tbsp vanilla
1 egg
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup marmalade
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup peeled and chopped apple (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 375 F.
  • Whisk together AP flour, wheat flour, baking powder and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together milk, butter, vanilla, honey and egg.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the flour mix and stir together until mixed. Do not overwork the batter.
  • Stir in the marmalade, apple and almonds. The marmalade can be left a little streaky.
  • whole wheat marmalade muffin batter
  • Fill into a muffin pan and bake for 20 minutes. Start checking at 17 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. This recipe makes 12 muffins.
  • marmalade muffins
  • Remove from pan after 5 minutes and cool on wire rack.
Marmalade muffins with almonds
streaked with marmalade and studded with almonds

  • I used 1 tbsp flaxseed powder mixed with 3 tbsp water, set aside for 5 minutes, as egg substitute. I had run out of eggs.
  • I used half of an apple I had lying around in the muffins but it is optional. I think it gave the muffin some additional sweetness which was nice.
  • I blanched, peeled and chopped the almonds. Then I toasted the pieces in the microwave for 45 seconds.
  • I hardly ever use butter in place of oil for muffins but I thought butter and marmalade is a perfect match. I wanted to play up that flavour.

I am sending these muffins to Cake Mela at cooking4allseasons where cakes, muffins, cupcakes and all other types of cakes will join the mela.

A special Gujarati meal - Chana bataka nu shaak (black chickpeas and potato curry), Gujarati Kadhi

I have a special place in my heart for gujarati food. Having tasted authentic home-cooked gujarati food, I have very high standards when it comes to eating gujarati food. In my experience, it is very difficult to get the gujju taste outside of Gujarat.
Although here in the US, gujarati food in Atlanta does come close to meeting my standards. I haven't tasted the food since a couple of years so I hope this still holds true.

Today's lunch thali of chana bataka nu shaak (black chickpeas and potato curry) and kadhi with rotis and rice is a special combo where everything goes so well together. These recipes make me feel I am back in Gujarat eating a homely meal.
Gujarati meal - Kadhi, chana bataka nu shaak, roti and rice
Chana Bataka nu Shaak

Black Chickpeas and potatoes are cooked in a sweet spicy gravy thickened with besan. The besan is a key ingredient to get the signature gujarati texture and taste to the gravy.

black chickpea and potato curry

3/4 cup dry kala chana
2-3 potatoes
1 tomato
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp jaggery
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 dry red chilli
1/8 tsp chilli powder
1/8 tsp asafoetida
1 tbsp dhaniya-jeera powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp besan
  • Soak the kala chana overnight and pressure cook.
  • Heat 1 tbsp oil. Add asafoetida, dry red chilli, turmeric powder, chilli powder. Add the chopped potatoes. Saute for a few minutes.
  • Add the dhaniya-jeera powder, tomatoes and 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook till potatoes soften. (7-8 minutes)
  • Add the besan and mix well to avoid lumps. Add the cooked kala chana, salt, jaggery, garam masala and garlic.
  • Adjust water and cover and cook for 5 minutes.
A smooth, silky gravy is the hallmark of this sabzi. Make sure the besan is well blended. That is also why the usual tadka ingredients (mustard and cumin seeds) are avoided in this sabzi.

Gujarati kadhi

Gujarati kadhi is very popular almost all over India. I think it might be because it is the best type of kadhi there is. Cloves, fenugreek seeds and cinnamon are boiled in the yogurt base for a distinctive taste and a mouth-watering aroma.

Gujarati Kadhi

2 cups slightly sour yogurt
4 cups water
4 tbsp besan
3 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 inch ginger, grated
1 green chilli
1 dry red chilli
4 cloves
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
3 small cinnamon pieces
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida
6 curry leaves (optional)
1 cardamom pod powdered
  • Whisk together the yogurt, besan and water and keep aside.
  • Heat 1 tsp oil and 1 tsp ghee. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, cloves, cinnamon and asafoetida.
  • Add the green and red chillies, curry leaves, ginger and a pinch of turmeric powder.
  • Add the yogurt mixture.
  • Add salt and sugar.
  • Let the kadhi come to a boil. Add the cardamom powder.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes to develop the flavor. Whisk every few minutes.
The flavors in the kadhi develop the more it sits. So plan on making the kadhi at least an hour before serving and reheat.

Chocolate Walnut Pie

I made this pie for a party last year when I was not blogging. In those days, I just clicked pictures and uploaded them to web albums along with recipe notes. It was my way of having a recipe book.
In my usual habit, I made a lot of food for the party and everyone was stuffed when I said there is dessert to come. But this pie was so decadent, no one could say no to it. Some even asked if they could take a slice home to savour on a more relaxed stomach :)
The husband said this pie is better than any restaurant pie I have had. I have to agree. The pie was so good beyond my expectations. I was glad there were other people to share the pie otherwise I could definitely have finished it on my own.
I mostly followed this recipe exactly except I used a different and very easy method of "cutting" butter into the flour which I found here. I did not use bourbon because I didn't want to buy a bottle just for this (we dont drink) but I am sure it will taste even better with the bourbon. I did not top my pie with ganache. I am not that big on chocolate but I do think serving that warm slice of pie with vanilla ice cream definitely is the best way to enjoy this pie.
Chocolate Walnut Pie with Vanilla Icecream
Next day slice heated in the oven and topped with vanilla icecream
This really is the kind of dessert where you want to close all your other senses and really savour every bite without interruptions.

Chocolate Walnut Pie
recipe source : Classicalkitchen.com
A rich decadent dessert fit for any special occasion.

Chocolate Walnut Pie

For Crust:
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup frozen butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp ice cold water
For Filling:
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup corn syrup
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
    For Crust:
  • Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a bowl.
  • Grate the frozen butter using large grater holes. Mix grated butter into the flour mix with a spatula.
  • Put the bowl in the freezer for 10 mins to get the butter cold again.
  • Mix vanilla and ice cold water.
  • Sprinkle the vanilla over the flour and mix gently with a spatula. The dough should just come together.
  • Remove the dough onto a lightly floured surface and form into a disc. Handle gently and do not allow the butter gratings to melt a lot. The butter pieces should be visible in the dough.
  • Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight.
  • Remove the dough and sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  • Roll the dough into a 12 inch circle with 1/8 inch thickness.
  • Roll the dough circle gently around the rolling pin to help lift the dough. Gently unroll onto the pie dish and press lightly into place. Cut any overhanging dough. I used a fork around the edge for a little decorative design.
  • I used to left over dough from cutting to form flower petals.
  • Put the pie plate in the freezer while preparing the filling.
  • For Filling:
  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Using a hand mixer with whisk attachment, whisk the melted butter, sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, eggs and vanilla till fluffy.
  • Add the chocolate chips and walnuts and fold them in.
  • The pie:
  • Pour the filling into the pie dish removed from the freezer.
  • Bake for 50-60 minutes.
  • Pie is set when you shake it gently and the center is slightly soft. The pie will continue to set while it cools.
  • Let the pie cool down completely before trying to slice it.
  • Bake the flower petals on a separate baking tray or aluminium foil for 10 minutes and then arrange on the pie when it comes out of the oven.

  • It is very important to keep the pie crust very cold. So the use of frozen butter and ice cold water is very important. So are the cooling times in the freezer and the fridge. Only a cold crust will become flaky, crisp and melt your mouth.
  • Be gentle with the dough. If you press it down too much into the pie dish or overwork it, the crust can shrink.

  • Lauki ke gatte ki sabzi - Steamed bottlegourd besan dumplings in yogurt gravy

    I am always looking for new ways to make the humble and healthy lauki (bottlegourd). It is not a vegetable most people look forward to eating. Lauki chane ki dal is the usual way it is made in our house, which is an acceptable way for the picky eaters in the house. I was looking for something more exciting to add variety to our lauki eating habits. I came across this member contributed recipe on tarla dalal website.
    This recipe completely disguises the lauki and makes a pretty looking and pretty tasting dish. It will not evoke any of the boring expressions which usually accompany a regular lauki ki sabzi.

    Bottlegourd gatte in yogurt gravy

    Grated bottlegourd is kneaded into a dough and steamed to make the gatte which are then lightly toasted on a pan before adding to a light yogurt gravy. These go perfectly with some rotis. I used this recipe from tarla dalal website with a few changes.

    Lauki Bottlegourd Gatte ki sabzi

    For Gatte:
    1 medium bottlegourd
    1 cup besan
    3/4 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp turmeric powder
    1 heaping tsp coriander-cumin powder
    1/4 tsp chilli powder
    For Gravy:
    1 1/2 cups yogurt
    1 tsp oil
    1/2 tsp cumin seeds
    2 cloves
    1 inch piece cinnamon
    1 heaping tsp ginger-garlic paste
    1/2 medium onion
    1/8 tsp asafoetida
    1/4 tsp turmeric
    1 dry red chilli
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp sugar
    • Grate the bottlegourd and squeeze excess water from it. Add the spices and besan and mix till a dough forms. There is no need to knead like a chapati dough. The dough will be slightly sticky. Apply some oil to your hands if you find it difficult to work with the dough.
    • Divide into 3 or 4 portions. Roll each portion between your hands to make a thick rope.
    • Bring some water to a boil in a saucepan over which a colander will fit properly. The water should not touch the bottom of the colander. If you have a steamer, this is the time to use it instead of this make-shift steamer.
    • Once the water boils, grease the colander well with oil and place the ropes in it. Cover and cook over medium flame for about 12 mins. The gatte would have changed color and look dry.
    • Remove the gatte ropes from the colander and let cool. The bottom of the ropes might look wet if the water was boiling too wildly but it will dry out once the ropes cool down.
    • Once cool, cut into 1/2 inch wide circles. Heat a pan/tawa and spray lightly with oil. Once hot, sear the circles lightly on both sides and keep aside.
    • For the gravy, heat 1 tsp oil in a pan and add cumin seeds, asafoetida, cloves, cinnamon and dry red chilli.
    • Add the ginger-garlic paste and finely chopped onion. Saute till the onion gets soft and ginger-garlic paste is cooked.
    • Add the turmeric and mix.
    • Add the yogurt, salt and sugar. Add enough water to make a gravy consistency to your liking. Mine wasn't too thick but not too thin either.
    • Heat on medium flame till it almost come to a boil. Add the gatte in the last 5 minutes of cooking the gravy.
    • Add chopped coriander leaves on top (really adds to the flavor) and serve with chapatis/rotis.
    Dont worry too much about making a smooth dough for the gatte. The dough is slightly sticky and the gatte will be softer and better with this dough consistency.

    Cardboard play kitchen

    During the summer I worked on a few craft projects; one of which was a cardboard play kitchen. It is made completely from recycled materials which would otherwise have ended up in trash. I had seen the idea on Spoonful and immediately loved it. It took me a few months to really get working on the idea because it seemed kind of daunting; but once I got to it, it was fun. I am so glad this went from bookmark to reality because my daughter was so excited about it while we were building it and it is still her favourite "toy".
    Cardboard Play Kitchen
    finished kitchen
    First I started collecting cardboard boxes. 2 equal sized boxes for the base, a pizza box for the window, 2 smaller boxes for the shelves. I fixed them all together using duck tape (big duck tape fan).
    DIY play kitchen

    Then I added the details. For the window, I looked for a nice picture from my stack of magazines and glued it on to the pizza box lid. Then I cut up one of my daughter's old dress to make curtains and glued them on.
    For the sink, I cut a hole in the base box, the size of a takeout container and just pushed the container into the hole. Then I made two holes and used the top of an empty spray bottle and the top of a soap dispenser as faucets.
    On the other side, I made coil burners by using permanent marker to draw rings on disposable plates and glued them in place.

    Then I added more details like a small piece of kitchen sponge, a spray bottle for the kitchen sink. My daughter made a coffee grinder type mixie using a plastic cups. We added her play utensils and a few empty containers to her kitchen shelves. I also added a small can to hold all her spoons. I used duck tape around the top edge of the can to take care of any sharp edges.
    The final additions were the cabinet and oven. For the cabinet, draw a rectangle the size of the desired cabinet on the box. Draw a vertical line through the center of the rectangle to mark the doors. Using an xacto knife, cut along the vertical door marker line. Then cut the two horizontal lines of the rectangle. You will have your cabinet doors. Use duck tape along the hinges to make them stronger. I also used duck tape over the cut sides to make them softer.
    For the oven, I drew a square in the middle of the box and cut three sides. I again used duck tape along the hinges and cut sides. I glued on bottle caps for door knobs on the cabinets and oven. I used goop glue but any strong glue or hot glue can be used.

    We have added some more kitchen utensils and play food like pistachio shells to the kitchen since then. My daughter loves to cook in her kitchen. She makes tea, milkshake, pasta and "food". It has provided several hours of fun. If you do plan this project, check out the original instructions on Spoonful.

    India trip in food (Mumbai street food and Gujarati thali)

    I am back from the long break. A two month long vacation in India. And now I have big trouble trying to write a blog post. I guess that is why consistency is the key. Smiley
    I really want to write about the fabulous food we ate in Mumbai and Gujarat. We really were spoilt for choice.
    The first half of our vacation was in Mumbai where we ate every street food we could get our hands on.
    Street food tastes best when eaten out of the smallest of stalls on the "street". The same food in bigger restauranty places just does not have the taste.
    Sev Puri
    Sev Puri
    The most popular street food all over India is "Chaat" which comprises of several types of spicy, sweet, tangy and crispy dishes. The same basic chutneys are used to create a plethora of chaats. One of which is the Sev Puri pictured above. It has a layer of crispy puris, topped with boiled potatoes, onions, chutneys, coriander leaves and a generous topping of sev and some spicy peanuts. We got this from a small stand (in the corner of a medicine shop) which just had enough space to put all the ingredients on a table like platform and for the two people making the chaats. Their paani-puri is the most popular though. I am not a big paani-puri person; but the husband is and he looked forward to his two servings of paani-puri every evening. I always shared a couple from his small paper bowl.
    In Mumbai, there are two types of paani-puri : the hot paani-puri and the cold paani-puri. The hot paani-puri has a filling of warm peas along with the chutneys and the spicy paani. This version is the most common and available all over India. The cold one has just the chutney, paani and boondi and the paani is kept cold. This version might be popular in Mumbai due to the warm temperatures all year round.
    The other category of signature Mumbai street food is bread based with "Vada-Paav" topping the list. You are probably not a true Mumbaikar is you do not like Vada-Paav. Crispy, spicy potato filled Vada stuffed in a Paav spread with the chutneys. Portable, filling and cheap for on the run Mumbaikars. Another popular potato and paav based street food "Dabeli" originates in Gujarat but has found a place in the hearts of people in Maharashtra.
    It is again a spicy potato filling inside a paav slathered with chutney and topped with spicy peanuts, pomegranate seeds and sev. Then it is fried in some butter on a hot griddle. Love the hot, sweet and spicy taste.
    Sandwich and pizza get their Mumbai twist at the roadside stall which is just small enough to accomodate the ingredients and the man making the orders. Speed is the key at any roadside street food joint. Handling multiple orders and hurried customers efficiently is the key to success. This sandwich stall near our house was relatively new and the man did not have the superhuman speed needed to handle the hoard of customers flocking his stall. So the wait could get long especially during evening snack time.
    Desi Pizza
    Mumbai Sandwich
    It is fascinating to watch the making of the Mumbai sandwich. A giant triangle shaped white bread is used for the sandwiches. First, all the bottom bread pieces are laid out on the counter, one per order. Batch processing is the name of the game here. Spread a good dollop of Amul butter and green chutney on each. Take a whole boiled and peeled potato and drop a few slices over each bread as you go over the queue. Repeat slicing over the bread for onion and beet. Sprinkle some special masala on top. Grate some Amul cheese on top and place another bread triangle on this mound. Spread butter, chutney on the bread. Use the slice and drop method for some tomatoes and cucumber. More masala and more cheese. Cover with the top bread triangle. Grill with butter on a sandwich press. Remove when golden brown onto a paper plate. Grate a big heap of cheese on top. This sandwich delivers a weeks (or a months, depending on your health-consciousness) quota of butter and cheese in one go.
    We also ate the "Misal-Paav", the very popular, very spicy Maharashtra street food. The spice levels on this one can go extremely high. My husband knows of places where they give 5 glasses of water along with the misal-paav to douse the fire in your mouth. The one we ate was not spicy at all by comparison (I cannot handle spice very much) but still very tasty.
    That was all the street food we tried in Mumbai not considering the dosas and idlis we ate.

    The next stop on the trip was Gujarat where my parents live. It has become kind of a tradition that whenever me or my brother go there for a vacation, we have atleast one meal at a Gujarati thali restaurant. It is about more than food. Taking the trip to the neighbouring city, eating some good homely food on a huge thali, with the servers take care to keep your thali full at all times. It is about the experience and about the authentic gujju food which, in my experience, you can get only in Gujarat. We usually go shopping after lunch too. It is a nice day outing. These are happy memories for us.
    Gujarati Thali
    Gujarati thali

    Brownie Bar - brownies, caramel chocolate sauce, lemon whipped cream

    For this post, I am going way back to my cinco de mayo post where I mentioned about the nacho and brownie bars at the party. I never got around to posting about the brownie bar. I love the idea of a toppings bar at a party. There is something about creating your own special version of the dessert with all the toppings. That might be why I love "Souper Salad". As the name suggests, it is a soup and salad bar; but it also has a dessert bar.

    For the brownie bar, I made spiced brownies, salted caramel chocolate sauce, lemon whipped cream and laid out store bought vanilla ice cream and crushed some oreo cookies.
    Brownie Sundae

    The next day, we ate the leftover brownies, parfait style with layers of brownie, icecream, whipped cream, caramel chocolate sauce and strawberries, topped with the crushed oreos.
    Brownie, Strawberries and Icecream

    Yes, it was as awesome as it looks. Smiley

    Spiced Brownie

    Everyone should take the journey of finding the perfect brownie texture that works for you. I have seen brownies ranging from cakey to almost melted chocolate in texture. For me the right texture lies somewhere in between, slightly leaning towards the melted chocolate texture. Although my journey is far from complete and I have lots more brownie recipes to try out. But meanwhile, this recipe will be my go-to for the gooey brownie. I adapted the basic cocoa brownie recipe from Smitten Kitchen blog to make it a spiced brownie.

    Mexican spiced Brownies

    10 tbsp unsalted butter
    1 1/4 cup sugar
    3/4 cup cocoa powder
    1/4 tsp kosher salt
    1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    2 eggs
    1/2 cup all purpose flour
    1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
    1/8 to 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
    2/3 cup choppped walnuts *see notes
    • Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line a 8 in round cake pan with parchment paper. Make sure the parchment paper hangs over the sides of the pan. That is the way to go if you want your brownies out of the pan (just lift out the parchment paper with the brownies and peel the paper off).
    • Place the butter, cocoa and sugar in a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals for one minute. Let it cool slightly.
    • Add the vanilla, salt, cinnamon and paprika. Add eggs one at a time and stir well with a rubber spatula.
    • Add the flour when the batter looks shiny and the eggs are blended in well. Stir in the flour till it is well mixed. Stir in the chopped nuts.
    • Spread the batter evenly into the parchment lined pan.
      Spiced Brownie batter
    • Bake for about 30 minutes. Keep checking after 25 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the middle should be slightly wet with crumbs.
    • Let the brownies cool completely before attempting to cut them. I made them the day before the party and left them in the fridge overnight (covered the pan with plastic wrap) before cutting into pieces.

    • Microwave chopped nuts for a minute to roast them and release the oil a bit.
    • Check the original recipe for more detailed descriptions.

    Salted Caramel Chocolate Sauce

    I found this recipe which combined salted caramel and chocolate which I thought was a brilliant idea. The combination reminded me of turtle empanadas. We loved the turtle empanadas at "On the border" so much, we used to go there just for them. But they have discontinued them from the menu now and we are kind of heart broken. I mean to try making them at home but that's a story for another time.
    This sauce might not be turtle empanadas but it is an awesome sauce nonetheless.

    I followed the recipe exactly so I am just going to show the process in pictures instead of writing it down.
    • Sugar,water and corn syrup turning amber.
    • Sugar mixture bubbling violently after hot cream is added.
      caramel sauce
    • Added salt, vanilla and chocolate chips after removing from heat.
      Salted Caramel and Chocolate Sauce
    • Chocolate melted into the sauce.
      Salted Caramel and Chocolate Sauce
    • Covered with plastic wrap and ready to be microwaved the next day for the party.

    Lemon Vanilla Whipped Cream

    I added lemon to the basic vanilla whipped cream for that extra something. It also goes well with the mexican theme. Although whipping cream seems very basic, it is easy to mess it up. It is very important to keep everything as cold as possible. That means the cream, the bowl and the whisk. The other thing is not to overbeat or else you might end up with butter. If you keep these two points in mind, you can easily make whipped cream at home which tastes much better than anything you could buy in a store.

    Cream for whipping
    From this
    Lemon Whipped Cream
    To this

    1 cup heavy whipping cream
    2 tbsp sugar
    1 tbsp vanilla extract
    1 tsp lemon juice
    1 tbsp lemon zest
    • Place all the ingredients in a cold bowl.
    • Whisk on high speed for 5-10 minutes till medium peaks are formed.
    • Use a metal bowl for whipping. Keep the bowl and whisk in the freezer for 10 minutes to chill them before using them for making whipped cream.
    • Take the cream out of the fridge only when you are ready to whip it.
    • Do not use anything other than heavy cream for whipping.
    • To check for medium peaks, lift the whisk up from the cream and check if a droopy peak forms. If the tip of the peak droops, the cream has reached medium peak consistency. If the peak holds its shape, stiff peak consistency is reached.

    I am going to India for a vacation this weekend. In case anyone other than friends and family are reading this blog, posting will be slow for a month or two.