Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snow Storm brings White Christmas in Cary, NC.

On 25th and 26th December-2010, my city experienced the first white Christmas  in more than 60 years. It started to snow on 25th night and by 26th December afternoon  we got  8 inches of snow. City got covered under thick, fluffy blanket of snow...entire nature got transformed with  beautiful glimpses of winter landscapes. Enjoy the  immense beauty  of  this  rare white  Christmas day by scrolling down few captured pictures.

Self Note :Post published on 01-11-11.

26th Drive way was fully covered with snow, neighbor's car parked on their drive way.

View from kitchen window.

Roads were not safe to drive.

Water drainage pipe, dripping water from roof  formed shiny hanging icicles on bushes.

Left side view of the above picture.

 Last time it was2 inches snow now  8 inches.

Soft and fluffy Snow covering  bare trees.

Pristine White Christmas.

This is  my most favorite tall Tree. (You will see it often)

On 28th December, I drove out...Still lot of snow was around.

Snow lingered almost for a week, On 29th morning 9.15 am ... Sun was masked with clouds...Beautiful glimpse, peaceful silent moment was experienced.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Butter Cookies flavored with Cardamom & Nutmeg

Warm Christmas  cheers all around city brings very good feeling in is time that you see lot of love, sharing, giving spirits. Weather is very cold and predictions are made for white Christmas in the city. I decided to bake small batch of simple butter cookies with cardamom and nutmeg flavor. Cookies tasted delicious and aroma of cardamom and nutmeg was very intriguing. I have followed  almost same recipe of Desi Nankatai. In India I used to make Nankatai biscuits during Diwali days,dough will be prepared at night  and early morning I would  take it to local Irani bakery to get them baked, they used to charge just 2 Rs. per tray. Wood fire bakeries gave excellent Nankatai results. Only difference in recipe is Dalda is replaced with butter. Aroma and taste is just like Nankatai but texture gets a bit little harder...may be next time I will use Dalda (vegetable shortening) to get soft Desi Nankatai texture.

Self Note : Recipe published on 01-11-11.

Ingredients :-
  • 1 stick butter ( 8 Tb.spoon) thaw it to room temperature.
  • 1 Cup confectioners sugar - lightly packed
  • 1.5 Cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 4-5 Cardamom - finely powdered
  • Nutmeg - peanut size piece - finely powdered
  • Cashew halves - 15-20 pieces to garnish cookies top
Preparation :-
  1. In a medium size  deep bowl place softened butter stick. Beat with electric mixer for 2 minutes. Scrape all sides and collect all softened butter to the  center of the bowl. 
  2. Slowly add confectioners sugar and continue beating until butter and sugar is well mixed and turns into smooth and fluffy paste.
  3. Sprinkle powdered cardamom and nutmeg.
  4. Now slowly add all purpose flour and continue to mix with mixer. At this stage it will break fluffy paste and turn a bit dry. Keep beating for about 2 minutes.Keep mixer aside.
  5. Merge dry dough with hand into ball. If you are unable to form the dough ball then add 1 teaspoon milk and merge. Don't add more than 2 teaspoon milk. Thoroughly massage the dough ball and cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 minutes.
  6. Make 15-16 round balls. You can use tablespoon to scoop dough to make equal size balls. Roll each ball between two palm and slightly press in center, press half cashew nut  and place cookies  on greased cookie sheet. Maintain over half an inch distance between each cookie.
Cookie baking process :-
  1. These cookies need attention while baking. Total baking time is around 20-25 minutes.
  2. Set one baking rack on second slot and another rack in the  middle - Pre-heat oven to 325 F.
  3. Place cookie sheet on middle rack tray and bake for 12-15 minutes.
  4. Now change oven setting to broil on low. This brings nice golden brown shade, few cracks  on top of the cookies. Maintain this setting for just 3-4 minutes and quickly shut off the oven. (At this stage you need to keep attention..the moment you see enough brown shade on top, move cookie sheet to lower rack.)
  5. Move the cookie sheet to lower rack and continue baking for another 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from them and enjoy Butter cookies.

Christmas Greetings!!

Wishing all my readers, followers, visitors a Warm and  Happy Christmas & Peaceful..Prosperous..Healthy New Year. May peace prevail in all times and all places.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Spectacular skies.. Incredible cloud pattern - Spiritual experience.

Friday 10th December, Since morning I kept delaying my bank visit..around 4.30 evening suddenly  I left home. Bank is just one mile away from home, I finished my work in five minutes and headed towards home...Sun was setting and I witnessed a beautiful intriguing sky splash...I do often see unique splashes of clouds and sky but this one was extremely catchy...and worth capturing...I quickly made right turn into parking lot of the grocery store, pulled over  and captured this cloud beauty from cell phone camera. I  rushed to home to enjoy some more glimpses from different angle. 

If you carefully watch all the pictures, you will find 2-3 long smoke trails created by small flying planes..that sure added more magical touch. I enjoyed this blessed spiritual experience for about 20 minutes..Please scroll down to experience.
First picture taken from Grocery shop Parking lot.

I drove further towards home and this is second capture.

Third picture taken with cell phone camera.

After reaching home I captured this picture with Digital Camera.

 Second Capture with Digital camera

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Eggless Apricot, Walnut, Raisin Cake with Wheat + Rice flour - flavored with Cardamom.

After making this first eggless cake, today I tried another eggless cake without using Maida (all purpose flour), combination of  wheat and rice flour is used. I generously  enriched cake with  Akrod (walnut), Apricots and golden raisins. Coconut milk was used along with regular milk to form the Cake batter. Baked cake looked rustic and  traditional, it  got nice dense, a bit crumby  texture and  fruity taste. Cardamom aroma  along with rice and wheat flour gave a very bold desi taste to the cake. I  made few mini cup cakes,  one  loaf and round shape cake. This is wonderful baked  Holiday Dessert.

Self Note : Recipe published on 01-11-11

Ingredients :-
  • 1 Cup wheat flour - roasted until aromatic
  • 1/2 cup rice flour - roasted until aromatic
  • 2 Tb.spoon rava - roasted until aromatic
  • 2 Tb.spoon soy flour
  • 12 Apricots cut into tiny pieces (1 cup tightly packed yield)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 stick butter + 1.5 tbsp extra to roast flour ( you can use ghee for roasting flour)
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk ( used Renuka Brand)
  • 1 cup milk (I used 2%)
  • 1 heaped Tb.spoon golden flax seed meal (regular is fine too)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup regular sugar
  • 8-10 cardamom - finely powdered
  • 1/2 T.spoon baking soda
  • 1/2 T.spoon baking powder
Cake making Process :-
  1. Roast  wheat flour, rava  in a heavy gauge pot  on a  medium heat by adding  1.5  tbsp Ghee or butter. You need to stir frequently. After 6-7 minutes add rice flour and continue roasting  until mixture of flour changes to slight darker shade and releases nice toasty aroma. It takes total 10-12 minutes.Mix cardamom powder in roasted flour and  Keep it aside to cool.
  2. In a small glass bowl add 1 heaped tbsp flax seed meal with 4 tbsp water. Heat in microwave for one minute.Set aside liquid to cool.
  3. In  a deep bowl add softened stick of  butter - beat it for 1 minute. ( I used hand mixer)
  4. Add boiled flaxseed meal liquid  - beat along with butter for 2  minutes.
  5. Add coconut milk - beat for one minute.
  6. Slowly add brown sugar - beat until incorporated. 1.5 minutes.
  7. Pour in milk - beat for one minute.
  8. Now add regular sugar + 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp baking soda - beat until all mixture turns light and fluffy - 1.5 minutes
  9. Slowly start adding roasted flour + soy flour and continue beating for 1 minute..make sure all flour is properly combined.
  10. Mix Apricot, walnut, raisins  - Fold in with spatula until evenly distributed. Scrape down all sides of the bowl with spatula and give one quick beat with mixer for 30 seconds. Cake batter is ready to bake.
  11. Scoop the batter into greased  cake pan  and smooth the top.  Gently tap the pan 3-4 times on counter to set batter without any loops / bubbles. You may sprinkle few walnut pieces on top.
  12. Bake in a pre heated ( 350 degree F) oven on the middle rack for 20-25 minutes.  To check for doneness, insert toothpick in the center of the cake;  if the toothpick comes out clean, take the cake out and allow it to cool.
  13. I poured remaining cake mixture into small loaf pan.(4x8) It took 20 minutes to bake @ 300 degrees F. Once toothpick came out clean, I left cake pan in oven for another five minutes and then removed out of oven. Also I made 12 tiny cup cakes. It took less than 20 minutes to bake cup cakes. You may have to increase bake time based on the type of cake pan you use and quantity of batter  you fill in the pan.
  14. After cake is cooled down cover it with plastic cling wrap to keep moist. Enjoy this cakes as a great holiday treat  or dessert.
Some more Pictures ....

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Seasons first winter snow fall in Cary, NC.

Saturday, 4th December mother nature blessed our city with  seasons first snow flurries  which left over an inch thick fluffy accumulation of snow. May be we will get 3-4 times more snow in this winter season. This was perfect dose of snow because within few hours it stopped snowing and by night roads were clear for travel, schools didn't close, every one was back to work next morning. Around noon time shower of flurries started and continued till late evening. A true heavenly experience..My pleasure to share those beautiful snow captures with you all...Enjoy!!

Around noon it started to snow.........

In few hours it accumulated almost an inch of snow.This view is from kitchen side.

Weber's Charcoal grill got covered with snow.

My Rosemary Herb plant in the pot....

Same spot where I had taken few fall pictures.

Fluffy soft snow covered all plants and trees and ground.

Simply enjoy these following  3 pictures of  the  circle.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pressure Cooker chicken curry with touch of coconut milk - Zesty Autumn Treat

For Weekend meals,  my family always  crave for some non-veg spicy curry. I had some chicken thighs and breast pieces in refrigerator. For a change, I decided to make chicken curry in pressure cooker. It  cuts down cooking time and brings intense curry flavor. I gave less stress on Garam masala, increased Corriander and cumin proportions, added little coconut milk. This turned out very delicious and therapeutic chicken curry preparation for chilled autumn day.

 Scroll Down to view three autumn pictures.

Ingredients :-
  • 4 chicken Thighs - 2 pounds,cut in medium pieces.
  • 2 small size chicken breasts - 1 pound , Cut in 1 inch cubes.
  • 2 Tb.spoon oil
  • 1 extra large onion - cut length wise
  • 8-9 fresh garlic cloves - finely crushed
  • 2 inch piece of ginger - finely crushed
  • Cilantro chopped - 1 cup (use stem and leaves both)
  • 1/2 Cup coconut milk
Spice Blend
  • 1 Tb.spoon heaped - corriander seeds
  • 1 T.spoon heaped - cumin seeds
  • 1 medium size star anise
  • 2 cardamom
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 inch cinnamon piece
  • Dry Red chilies - I used 1 Guajillo for color + 7-8 Arbol for heat. ( you can use Byadgi chilies for color or in absence of dry red chilies you may use good quality red chili powder)
Combine above whole spices in a small jar of grinder and make fine powder.

Preparation Method :-
  1. I used four chicken thighs and two small size chicken breasts. In each thigh I made 4-5 pieces by keeping bone intact. Since weather was cold, I left some fat on thigh pieces.This will help to get nice red oil layer on curry. I cut breasts  into one inch cubes. Marinated lightly with salt and kept  it aside for half an hour.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in pressure cooker / pressure pan. (minimum 4 quart size) Add onions and saute on medium heat for 7-8 minutes until they turn soft.
  3. Add finely crushed ginger and garlic and mix with onions. Saute for one minute. Now add powdered Masala , save 1 tsp for later stage. Mix well and stir with wooden spoon for 1.5 minutes. It gets dry at this stage so sprinkle 1 tbsp water and stir for one more minute. It is fine if some portion of masala powder gets a bit burnt, it will bring enhanced aroma to the curry.
  4. Add all salt  marinated chicken pieces and combine well with onion Masala base. Reduce heat to low and keep it simmering for 3-4 minutes. Do stir at interval.
  5. Now pour in half cup coconut milk, add some more salt and remaining 1 tsp masala powder. Leave it to simmer at medium low temperature - for about 7-8 minutes. Do keep stirring at interval. Make sure there is enough liquid built up in curry, if required add half cup of water.
  6. Now cover pressure cooker lid and reduce the heat to medium. Wait until it builds enough steam pressure inside. Just allow to blow single whistle and switch off the gas. It is fine if it blows second whistle. Allow it to cool for 10-15 minutes. ( Some times pressure cooker will not release whistle, in that case maintain medium heat and cook for 12-15 minutes  and shut off the gas. In between lift the whistle and release some steam.)
  7. Open the lid and sprinkle finely chopped cilantro and serve this curry with rice or roti.
Self  Note- Recipe posted on 11th January 2011.

Autumn Pictures....


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Skin on Split Moong Dal Curry with Spinach and Tomatillo. / (NC Fall Season pictures - 1 )

In Indian cooking Split moong Dal with skin  is well known for its easy to digest quality. It cooks quickly and adapts to various recipes like Curry,  Usal, Dosa, Vada, Khichadi. I gave slight sour twist by adding Tomatillo. No garam masla is used in this curry. All ingredientes and herbs together bring nice green tone to this nutritious Mung Dal curry.

Scroll down to enjoy beautiful glimpses of fall foliage  shots captured around home.

Ingredients :-
  • 3/4 Cup Split moong Dal with skin - picked and rinsed.
  • 1/4 Cup split green peas (soak for half an hour)
  • 1 Cup diced Tomatillo
  • 1.5 Cup tightly pressed  frozen chopped Spinach ( If using fresh - take 3 Cups chopped)
  • 6-7 cloves of garlic - finely crushed
  • 1.5 inch piece of ginger - finely crushed
  • 3-4 green chilies - finely crushed
  • 8-12 curry leaves
  • 1 medium size onion - finely chopped
Cooking Process :-
Step - A

  1. This curry is cooked in two seperate cooking steps and later combined together to retain green color of Spinach.  Heat 1 tbsp oil in pressure pan or pressure cooker. Add  curry leaves and sizzle for 6-7 seconds. Add chopped onions and saute on medium heat until they are soft and translucent.
  2. Now add rinsed split moong dal + green split peas with 2 Cups water. Add salt and let it simmer. Once it starts boiling cover the pressure pan lid. Allow one whistle then quickly reduce the heat to low, after 5-6 minutes shut off the heat. During this process it is ok if it blows second whistle. Keep pressure cook aside to cool.
Step - B
  1. Combine and finely crush ginger, garlic, green chilies.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a skillet. Add crushed ginger, garlic, green chilies..sizzle for 10-15 seconds..quickly add diced tomatillo - saute for 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle little water if it gets completely dry.
  3. Mix chopped spinach, little salt -saute on medium low flame for 7-8 minutes.
  4. Now combine Spinach+Tomatillo mixture with cooked split moong dal in cooker. Place pressure pan again on heat and simmer for 7-8 minutes on medium temperature. Adjust consistency by adding little more water. Enjoy with rice/roti...also enjoy in a bowl as thick hearty soup by drizzling spoonful of hot melted ghee.
Note :- In absence of pressure cooker you can cook split moong dal on stovetop. Take 3 quart size pot and follow step-A...Here mung beans will absorb water so increase water quantity. It should take 30-35 minutes to have tender cooked texture.

Mixing together Spinach+Tomatillo mixture with cooked Moong Dal+Green split peas



First four pictures are taken almost at the same spot with interval of few for the  changes in colors.