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

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


Ingredients:
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.
Notes:

  • 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.
    Caramel
  • 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


Ingredients:
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.
Notes:
  • 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.

Healthy Kid friendly Savory Veggie Pancakes

My almost 3 year old does not eat her vegetables. I try to offer her some vegetable everyday with the hope that she would eat it today. On some blessed days, she eats raw baby carrots or some lightly sauteed broccoli. She almost always eats methi in a dal or kadhi.
It is no wonder that the biggest question on most mom's minds is how to get their kids to eat more vegetables. The recipe was a result of this ongoing question that I face. Since she loves dosas and pancakes, I thought a hybrid with vegetables might work. She ate two of them which is a big success. And I have noticed that grating vegetables makes them more palatable even for adults. Smiley.

Veggie Pancakes
Grated vegetables, flours, egg cover all nutrition groups to make this a complete meal.
Healthy Vegetable Pancake

Ingredients:
4 carrots
1/2 beet
1/2 onion
3 tbsp chopped spinach
1 egg
1 green chilli
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp turmeric
4 tbsp besan
1 tbsp flax seed powder
4 tsp whole wheat flour
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
5 tbsp water
  • Grate the carrots, beet and onion.
    Carrots, Beet and Onions for pancakes
  • Add the chopped spinach, salt, pepper and turmeric. Keep aside for a few minutes to release the vegetable juices.
  • Add the besan, flax, whole wheat flour and the minced chilli, ginger and garlic pastes. Add the beaten egg and baking soda. Add enough water to make a thick pancake like batter.
    Savory vegetable pancake batter
  • Heat a griddle to medium high heat. This needs a pan hotter than a pancake pan.
  • Spread a ladleful of the batter on the griddle and spread some oil around the pancake. Cover and cook for a couple of minutes.
    Vegetable pancake on cast iron skillet
  • Turn the pancake over and cook uncovered for a minute.
  • Serve with ketchup and chutney.
    veggie pancake with ketchup
Notes:

  • Egg is optional in this recipe. I just added it for the protein and for the texture it gives the pancakes.
  • I removed some batter aside for the kid before adding the green chili and ginger.
  • You could add any vegetable you have on hand. Zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli will all work well here.

Make Windchimes from Metal Cans

Spring is usually the time when wind-chimes come out to hang. I could see them hanging in many a houses but instead of buying one, I decided to challenge myself into making one. In the spirit of recycling, I began to look around for things that could be used to make windchimes. I narrowed down on metal as the material of choice because it had to make a sound when it clanked together. I also did a google search and saw a few ideas. I decided, metal cans it will be.
I spent most of spring collecting metal cans of various sizes. Finally I made two different kind of wind chimes.

Cascading Can Chime

When I looked at my collection of metal cans, I saw four of them fit inside each other just perfectly. That led me to this cascading wind chime design. I used tiny jingle bells to anchor the cans on the metal wire and also for the sound they make.

cascading metal can windchime


Materials:
metal cans of different sizes
metal beading wire
small bells
acrylic colors
  • Remove any labels from your metal cans. This can be done by soaking the cans in water for a few hours. Clean the cans to prepare them for painting.
  • I used bright acrylic colors to paint the cans. Do at least 4 coats of paint, letting the paint dry completely between coats. It is better to do more thin coats rather than fewer thick coats. Acrylic colors are water-proof once dry so it was the perfect choice for an outdoor windchime.
    painted metal cans
    Cans after one coat of paint
  • I added golden polka dots using the back of a wooden skewer.
  • Punch a hole at the center of the metal cans. Using a nail and hammer is ideal.
  • Cut out an approximate length of the metal wire. I used the total length of all the metal cans as a guide.
  • Tie one or more jingle bells at one end of the wire.
    bells for windchimes
  • Thread the wire through the smallest can so that it rests over the bells.
    making a windchime
  • Tie another bell a little above this can. Check the spacing to see that the next can will overlap this can.
  • Thread the second can so that it rests over the second bell.
  • Continue tying bells and hanging cans using the rest of your bells and cans.
  • Once the last can is hung, twist the remaining wire to form a loop for hanging the wind chime. I also used a little bit of duck tape to make the loop a little more secure.


The other Windchime

This is other windchime I decided to make with my leftover can collection. I used a plastic lid from a large yogurt container and used it to hang the cans in a more traditional windchime configuration.

metal can windchime


Materials:
metal cans
metal beading wire
small bells
acrylic colors
plastic or metal container lid
  • Remove any labels from your metal cans. This can be done by soaking the cans in water for a few hours. Clean the cans to prepare them for painting.
  • I used darker acrylic colors to paint the cans. Do at least 4 coats of paint, letting the paint dry completely between coats. It is better to do more thin coats rather than fewer thick coats. Acrylic colors are water-proof once dry so it was the perfect choice for an outdoor windchime. I also glued some buttons on the cans.
    All painted and ready
  • Punch a hole at the center of the metal cans and on the plastic lid at the points where the metal cans will be hung (I had 4 on the sides and one in the center) . Using a nail and hammer is ideal.
  • Cut out 5 equal (or unequal depending on your design) lengths of the metal wire.
  • Tie a jingle bell at one end of each wire. Thread the wire through the hole in the can so that it rests over the bell.
  • Thread the other end of the wire through the hole on the plastic lid and tie it in a knot. I also used duct tape for more secure hold.
  • Repeat this process and tie all the cans to the lid.
  • For the center can, leave some wire on the top to create a hanging loop before knotting it on the top of the lid.

Fridge cleaning challenge

When Nupur posted the fridge cleaning challenge on her blog, I knew I couldn't ignore my fridge anymore. I had been ignoring it for almost a year now and it was extremely dirty. Yes, I am lazy like that when it comes to cleaning.

A couple of days after the challenge was posted, I decided today is the day. I could have done it in parts over a few days but that never works out for me. I clean a part of the fridge one day and then forget about the rest on other days.

My fridge was pretty empty because these days I am trying to reduce the number of grocery shopping trips. This forces me to find ways to use the stuff lying around in the fridge and pantry. This way, we get to eat different from the usual roti-sabzi routine and of course, save money and reduce waste. This was one of the days when grocery shopping was inevitable. That is a good time to clean the fridge as there is less stuff to remove and replace in the fridge.

I started with the dirtiest parts first : the bottom-most shelf and the vegetable and fruit drawer bins. And worked my way up. That is the opposite of the recommended top-down approach. But those things were so dirty, I just went for them first.

I have equal parts of vinegar and dish liquid in a spray bottle and it is my go to cleaner. This is almost magical for bathtubs. Just spray it on liberally and wipe down after a couple of hours. The bath tub looks brand new and the best part : no scrubbing required.

Coming back to fridge cleaning, I took the huge bottom shelf and fruit and vegetable trays to the bathtub, used a kitchen sponge sprayed with my magic cleaner and washed them. While they were drying, I used the same cleaner inside the fridge, wiping down with a wet cloth a couple of times and then wiping it dry with a clean towel. I liked it for the fridge because it does not have any harmful chemicals and also disinfects with the vinegar without leaving the fridge smelling funky.
Once the shelf was dry, I arranged it back in the fridge, emptied the shelf above it and repeated the whole process till the fridge was clean.

Lets look at the "before" and "after" pictures.

Main compartment
fridge cleaning
Before
After
Fridge Door
Before
After
Freezer compartment
freezer cleaning
Before
After
Freezer door
Before
After
The before and after pictures might not look very different but let me assure you the fridge is sparkling clean now.

Since the fridge was relatively empty, the only organising I had to do was in the bottom shelf and the door.
I use plastic trays from food packaging or take out and arrange the condiments on it. This helps group them and contain spills.
The tray at the back contains chutneys, hot sauce, mustard, pickled jalapenos, chipotle in adobo. These are not used a lot so they sit in the back. The front tray contains jams, peanut butter and butter. I somehow ended up with 4 types of jam in my fridge right now.

For the door, I used food packaging boxes to group spices. Rightmost box is for maharashtrian spices : 2 types of goda masala and kanda lasun masala. The middle box is for sambar, khichadi and pulao masalas. The last one is for all other types of spices. Also wedged there are pickles and papads.
Grouping things together makes it easier to find stuff and know exactly where to put it back. So the fridge stays organised longer.

Let me get to the survey posted for the challenge before the post gets too long to endure.

Fridge survey :
  • The most unusual item in my fridge : Probably the truckload of spices.
  • Three items I always have in my fridge : milk, homemade yogurt and hopefully ginger (I get nervous if I run out of ginger to add to my tea)
  • Oldest item in my fridge : 3 year old jar of pickled peppers. (I threw out the quarter full jar during this cleaning session)
  • Items that needed to be used and how I used them : A couple of roasted corn on the cob. I made quesadillas.
Freezer survey :
  • The most unusual item in my freezer : Bread starter that I got when I attended a bread baking class.
  • Three items I always have in my freezer : Frozen rotis, frozen peas, at least one type of nut.
  • Oldest item in my freezer : Might be the pistachios.
  • Items that needed to be used and how I used them : Nothing really was going bad but I ended up with lot of icecream in my freezer this summer and used the last bit of frozen yogurt and frozen mango pulp to make a mango milkshake.