Friday, March 27, 2015

Crunchy and crispy granola!

Crispy, crunchy granola

Now who doesn’t like granola!! Add it to milk, eat with yogurt or munch on it just like that! I like to make my own granola- that way I know what’s going into it and I can also tweak it to my tastes. The recipe is from King Arthur Flour.

I changed it just a little bit. Instead of maple syrup I use honey. I tried with both and found that when I make it with honey it’s more crisp and I like that. Also I bake it for 2 hours at 250 F and then turn off the oven and leave the granola in for a few hours. Also I half the recipe every time  I make it. That’s good enough for me.

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Ingredients

  • 3.5 cups rolled oats, uncooked
  • 1/2 cup flaked unsweetened coconut (optional, but good)
  • 1 cup stabilized wheat germ (I don’t have this in my pantry)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds (typically I use sliced ones but this time I didn’t have any so just chopped some almonds and found that I like them better because they add a lot of crunch)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2.5 cups mixed dried fruit** (raisins, cranberries, cherries, diced pineapple, diced apricots, chopped dates, or the mixture of your choice)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with silicone mats; or line them with parchment.
  2. In a very large bowl, combine the oats, coconut, nuts, and seeds. Mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, salt, honey, and vanilla.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry mixture in the bowl, stirring and tossing until everything is very well combined.
  5. Spread the granola on the baking sheets, patting it gently to flatten.
  6. Bake the granola for about 120 minutes, stirring the mixture with a heatproof spatula after 60 minutes. You want to bring the granola at the edge in towards the middle, so it all browns evenly. Reverse the baking sheets in the oven (top to bottom, bottom to top) when you stir.
  7. When the granola is a medium golden brown, remove it from the oven and cool completely on the pans.
  8. Transfer the granola to a large bowl, and mix in the dried fruit.
  9. Store the granola in a tightly closed container at room temperature for several weeks; freeze for extended storage. Or portion into pretty patterned plastic bags for gift-giving.

Note: Next time I want to increase the quantity of oats or reduce that of dried fruits/nuts.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Thandai– An Indian milk beverage

 

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Thandai is a traditional indian beverage made with milk and flavored with various spices. It’s mostly made in the northern part of India and is specially popular during the festival of Holi. Back home, it would be available as a concentrate in bottles just like we get hershey’s chocolate syrup here. In the hot summers of northern India, thandai was a popular drink. This holi I wanted to make a drink for our guests and figured what better drink on holi than thandai! I

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Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups full- fat milk (I used 1/2 cup cream and 4 cups 2% milk)
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (I misunderstood this to be confectioner’s sugar which is way less sweet. So I ended up using around 1 cup confectioner’s sugar)
  • a pinch of freshly ground black pepper (optional)
  • a few saffron strands (optional)


To Be Blended Into A Fine Powder
1/4 cup almonds
2 tbsp poppy seeds
2 tbsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
20 whole white peppercorns

Method

  1. If you’re not using pasteurized milk then boil the milk in a deep non-stick pan, allow it to cool completely.
  2. Combine the prepared powder and milk in a deep bowl, mix well using a whisk and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  3. Strain the mixture through a strainer, add the sugar, pepper powder and saffron and mix well.
  4. Pour equal quantities of the thandai into 4 individual glasses and serve chilled.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Almost famous breadsticks

Almost famous breadsticks

Hubby and I are big fans of Olive Garden! We really like that place. There was a time when I just couldn’t eat pasta – I didn’t get it! Now my mouth starts to water as I think of yummy pasta. So when that changed love for Olive Garden re-ignited in our house (hubby had always liked it!). No wonder then that when I saw the recipe for these Almost famous breadsticks (which I think means Olive Garden’s breadsticks) on Food Network I was tempted to try them out. They turned out totally yummy!! I think this is going to become our go-to recipe for breadsticks! I made half the recipe and it yielded nice good sized 8 breadsticks!

Ingredients:

For the Dough:

  • 1/2 package (or 1 1/8 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour,plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter,softened
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon fine salt

For the Topping:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter,melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of dried oregano

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place 1/4 cup warm water in a bowl and add the yeast as well as sugar to it. Set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  3. To your food processor bowl, add the flour, butter, fine salt, the yeast mixture and 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water. Mix until a slightly sticky dough forms, 5 minutes.
  4. Knead the dough by hand on a floured surface until very smooth and soft, 3 minutes.
  5. Roll into a 2-foot-long log; cut into 8 1 1/2-inch-long pieces.
  6. Knead each piece slightly and shape into a 7-inch-long breadstick; arrange 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with a cloth; let rise in a warm spot until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.
  7. Brush the breadsticks with 3/4 tablespoons of the butter and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt.
  8. Bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt with the garlic powder and oregano. Brush the warm breadsticks with the remaining 3/4 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle with the flavored salt.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Husband’s Secret

Author: Liane Moriarty

I absolutely loved reading this book! I can’t pinpoint exactly what we it was but I just wouldn’t feel like keeping it down – it was so interesting! I think it seemed very real, very next-door and easy to read. At the same time, you were always curious to know what would happen next.

The story involves three different families. A mother, son, daughter-in-law and her grandson. The mother’s daughter was murdered when she was a young girl and the murderer was never found. So the mother never got a closure and is always haunted by those memories. Her grandson seems to be compensating for her daughter who’s no longer there.

A successful husband, his equally successful and a very organized wife and their three lovely daughters. The wife comes across a letter written by her husband to her and to be opened if he’s dead. However when the wife comes across it and mentions it to her husband, it makes her husband very uneasy. This propels the wife to open the letter despite everything; and guess what? It was like opening a can of worms!

The last family: a husband, wife and their son. The husband admits to having an affair which tears apart the family. It gives the wife the license to do things she never thought a married woman should do.

Of course, these families are not independent of each other. They cross each other’s path every day. it is how their lives are intertwined and how they weave through the issues in their life which makes it quite engrossing to read!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Yummy granola bars!

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I’m always on the lookout for some nutritious and tasty snacks; that can be stored; which don’t need refrigeration… I know so many qualifications! You know snacks that are perfect for your afternoon cravings and don’t make you feel guilty that you just gorged on half a bag of chips! Instead they make you feel that you just did something good for your health. So I thought why not make some granola bars that suit my taste. While searching for granola bar recipes I came across this recipe from Minimalist Baker. It was perfect! I liked all the ingredients, I had all the ingredients and it was simple to make. I was a little apprehensive on whether it would indeed be bars or would it crumble; but it turned out fine. These are more of the chewy kind of bars are not the crunchy ones. I love them whatever they are! I added a very small amount of chocolate chips so that they please my chocolate-craving senses!

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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (I make my own)
  • 1 1/2 cup instant oats
  • 1 cup chopped and toasted almonds
  • 1 cup pitted Medjool dates
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips

Method:

  1. Toast the oats: Preheat oven to 350. Spread the oats on a baking sheet lined with silicone mat (or parchment paper). Bake the oats for around 15 minutes.
  2. Puree the dates: Mix the dates in the food processor till they come together and form a ball.
  3. Mix the peanut butter and honey in a saucepan and heat it over low heat. Just warm the mixture, don’t boil it.
  4. Put the toasted oats, almonds, chocolate chips and dates in a big bowl.
  5. Pour the peanut butter and honey mixture on top of it. And mix. I found it easiest to miz by hand but suit yourself.
  6. Line a baking pan with wax paper and spread the mixture. I used my brownie pan for this. Put a sheet of wax paper on top of the mixture and then press it using the heel of your palm t spread it in the pan.
  7. Refrigerate it for half an hour or so.
  8. Now you’re ready to cut your bars!

Note: I love them as it is but the next time I’m going to try and increase the oats by 1/2 a cup or less and also add some chia seeds. I’ll report back on how it goes!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Choice Theory

Disclaimer: I never got around to completing the book but I’d almost read 90% of it.

I liked the topic of this book but felt like the author was going on and on describing the same thing in different words. If I were to summarize the book, the author says that where you are in life is your choice. Often times you may not realize so but that is what it is. The best example (according to me) that he uses is of a person who is depressed. He explains that the person is not depressed because of circumstances or external factors; but because he chooses to depress. He chooses to not to do anything about it.

It’s definitely a good book to read and gives you a new perspective. In essence, it tells you to stop blaming external entities for where you are or what you’re doing. You and you alone are responsible for it. The more I read it the more I agreed with the author. If you’re not happy with your life then change it. It’s all up to you. If you don’t change it, then it means you’ve chosen to live the way you are.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Apple Muffins

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There are very few things in this world that are healthy and tasty; and I’m happy to announce that I found one of them! These delicious apple muffins! They’ve the goodness of apple and whole grains (in the form of whole wheat flour!).

The recipe is from King Arthur Flour. Yes I’m a huge fan of theirs and the more successful I’m at trying their recipes the bigger a fan I’m becoming! I followed the recipe as it is except that I substituted the egg with ground flaxseed.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, divided
  • 1 large egg 1 tbsp ground flaxseed in 3 tbsp water
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour (I used the Indian atta)
  • 1 cup Unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups peeled, cored, and chopped apples; about 2 large apples, about 3/4 pound whole apples

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease and flour a 12-cup muffin pan, or line with papers and grease the insides of the papers.
  2. Mix together the butter, granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar, beating until fluffy.
  3. Add the flaxseed mixture and mix well, stopping once to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  4. Gently mix in the yogurt.
  5. Stir in the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  6. Fold in the chopped apples.
  7. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar on top.
  8. Bake the muffins for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  9. Remove the muffins from the oven, cool them for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn them out onto a rack to finish cooling completely.