Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Importance of step stool in a toddlers life!

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I would say the best purchase we have made for Ritu till date is a step stool. It is the most used thing by her. Every toy or puzzle looses her interest after sometime. But this is used every single day even after almost an year.

Trying out step stools to buy at TJ Max on April 14, 2014. We got this blue one where Minnie mouse is sitting

There are different ways she uses this step stool. She steps on it to see or reach things which would not be possible otherwise. She sits on the lower step and keeps her book or plate on the top step, thus using it as a table-chair combo. She also sits on the top step and dangles her feet to the other side.

Several times I have felt a sense of empowerment in her when she runs to grab her stool and push it to wherever she wants to use it(mostly to the kitchen counter when I am cooking something). This stool has helped her in taking part in all the baking and cooking that happens in this house. She loves mixing the flour. She loves playing with chappathi dough. She loves to watch me chop vegetables. She is always ready to help me out with washing dishes, vegetables and fruits. Though it is a wooden stool, since it is small she can even lift it if she wants to use it in other parts of the house where the floor is carpeted.

Few days back I was making puttu(steamed rice flour with grated coconut). I had mixed the rice flour with required amount of water and kept on the counter. She came with her stool and started mixing the flour. She asked Arun who was standing beside her, "Acha upumavu veno"(do you want upma?). When he said yes, she said " Ready aayilla. Wait OK?"(it's not yet ready) and continued mixing the flour.

It could cause little inconvenience for moms at times. You might end up with some flour spilling which will keep you guessing whether that was all flour or all of the baking powder that was not mixed in properly. Your almost round chappathis might get squished and poked in a mere blink. More Raspberries might go down the drain than what you thought. Anything you kept away from your kids reach might still be accessible for them with the help of this stool. But still I would say you should dare and buy one for your little one because it makes life so much more easy and fun for them!
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Friday, December 19, 2014

Ritu's Ocean Themed Birthday Party

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Ritu's birthday party was a month after her birthday and now I am posting about her party almost 5 months later! Well her party was not delayed due to my procrastinating though this post is. We were traveling during her real birthday, the week after we had another friend's daughter's birthday party and then we had to postpone the party to two more weekends due to some other reasons. But we are glad we did do it because our little cutie pie had a blast on her party.



Ritu loves animals. But instead of going for a general jungle animals themed birthday party, we decided on ocean themed party. Since its summer we wanted to do some water games in the backyard. And Ritu knows most of the sea animals too.


Food was kept simple with pizzas, raita made using grapes, sea shell pasta, vegetable biriyani, grilled chicken, melon balls and a sea water colored lemonade made using lemonade, kool aid (blue color) and pineapple shorbet. Birthday cake was a plain Tres Leche cake ordered from store without any decorations. I made all the decorations using home made marshmallow fondant.


The dessert table included oyster cookies, sea shell and pearl chocolates, candy melt dipped marshmallow goldfish bowl and blue jello in orange peel.



For decorations we bought some paper fishes to hang from ceiling. I made jelly fishes using paper bowl and streamers. I also made a shark cut out for taking photos. The background of the dessert table was a table cloth I found at dollar store.



We had a water pool set up in backyard. The pool was a gift from her Shankar vallyachan and she loves playing in it. All the kids had fun. We also had water balloons and water guns.

The decorations were done after Ritu slept. So she was excited to see all the decorations when she got up on the day of the party. She was excited to see all the sea animals on the cake too. She had lots of fun playing with all the kids in the backyard and loved the pasta and the chocolate dipped marshmallows.

With her beloved Deepthi chechi


Almost all of the ideas for dessert table and decorations were from pinterest. There are tons of ideas for ocean themed party online. It was fun organizing this party and I am glad all kids had lots of fun together.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Hope smothered

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I wrote this poem after hearing about the incident that recently occured at a school in Bangalore where a staff of the school raped a 6 year old.

Didn't you see the twinkle in her eyes?
Didn't you see hope reflecting on her face?
Didn't you see the flutter in her wings,
to unveil all that is beautiful in this world?

How could you change that twinkle to an ember?
How could you put off that hope?
How could you cut off her wings,
kill her soul with such a hideous act of your lust?
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Monday, August 4, 2014

Ritu turned TWO!!

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This post is late by a month. Ritu's second birthday was on July 5th. Since it was a long weekend, we traveled with few of our friends. Ritu loves traveling just like we do. Her birthday according to Malayalam calendar was on July 14th. Arun and I took a day off from work.

We celebrated her birthday in the RV we rented out to visit Shasta lake and Crater lake. The trip was awesome and we all had lots of fun. We stopped at a Walmart and Ritu picked an jungle themed cake. She was thrilled to see a monkey, giraffe and elephant on the cake.




We celebrated her 'pirannal' ( birthday according to star and Malayalam calendar) with few of our friends and a grand sadya( kichadi, pachadi, koottucurry, thoran, avial, parippu, pappadam, pulissery, sambar, moru, palada pradaman). 

This happens to be the only good snap we took on her pirannal

Since we were on our trip during her birthday I couldn't write a post then. I used to write monthly notes till she turned 1. Here is the note to the birthday girl as she turned two:

You are a fun loving girl. You have a blast at any party we attend. You simply love being surrounded with people. You are now obsessed with birthday parties. You pretend the Popsicle making tray to be your cake and the sticks to be the candle. You blow the candles and give us each a piece of cake and pretend eating yourself too. How cute is that.



You are good at solving puzzles. Its fun to watch you sitting still and solving a puzzle because that rarely happens. You love to jump and run around. You want to go on all the big kid slides at the park. You already do all of them and now you are eyeing those big ladders and other stuff for climbing up. You can climb the ladder in the structure which scares me quite a bit but I try not to discourage you. You love walking on the almost 3 foot tall wall in our backyard that is just a feet wide. As if the whole backyard is not enough. Now lets just not talk about how much that scares me. Anyway what is the point when all you say if I try coming closer is 'Amma stay there' with a hand gesture asking me to stop coming any closer.



You love music and dance. It amazed me how quietly you sat down by yourself in front of a stage when we had a cultural evening and two ladies were performing an Indian folk dance. You pulled me to the front of the audience, placed your water cup down and sat down on the floor to watch the dance. You often ask me to dance with you 'lungi dance' and 'barso re'. You have learnt few steps of lungi dance when I was teaching joechettan. You enact happy, sad and angry Ritu. This one below is how you show us happy Ritu.



You start dancing the moment you hear a song. You stop everything you are doing and listen while your chitta sings.



You are compassionate. We have got many notes from teachers that you hugged a friend who was sad. We are so lucky to get so many hugs and kisses from you. Spontaneously. It is so fun. If we make up a sad face you hug us tight and kiss us abundantly.

Your current favorite animal is panda. You love splashing water in tub. You love playing rain while taking bath. You love bath times. You love all fruits, berries, ice cream and cake. You love books, puzzles, toy car, toy kitchen and scooter. You love Teletubbies, singing happy birthday song and ABCD song.

You mostly speak in English though you know Malayalam words quite a bit. That's because all your friends speak in English and you love interacting with all of them. It doesn't bother me. That is totally okay for now. When we return to India I am sure you will pick it up as fast as you picked up English. We try to speak always in our mother tounge Malayalam to you. Achan does a good job compared to me. But for now we are enjoying all those 'how are you friends?', 'please', 'excuse me', 'sorry', 'good night, sleep tight', 'that hurts', 'wake up', 'oh my Goodness', 'wow beautiful'(I get compliments on all of my new dresses) all said in with so much cuteness that we feel like hugging you tight each time you say those.

Love you loads! Hugs and kisses!

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My latest interest and a delicious fondant recipe!

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I have been lately fascinated by fondant decorated cakes.I have seen many themed cakes decorated using fondant and all looked so magnificent. Any intricate three dimensional designs are possible using fondant. While shopping for our daughter's first b'day I also realized that a fondant cake costs around 3 to 4 times a normal cake. But once you see a fondant covered cake you will know why. A lot of artistic effort goes in the making of one.

First attempt on a chocolate cake

I love doing creative stuff and enjoy learning new skills. So after seeing another beautiful fondant cake recently I decided I would try my hand at it. But there is one issue with fondant covered cakes. The fondant is mostly thick and full of sugar and has a gum like consistency that you just don't feel like eating it. So even though they look pretty most of the times you end up peeling it off and throwing it away. On my search about fondant I read that homemade fondant taste much better than store bought ones. And more over the ones available at stores are costly too.



This recipe I have used is all over web. So I am not sure who should be credited for the recipe. But the reviews were spot on. It makes absolutely delicious fondant. The one you don't feel like throwing away. The recipe is simple but it is a messy one. Now when I say messy please do not underestimate. It is so messy that at some point you might even think of abandoning the whole effort. Marshmallows are melted to make this and you have to knead it with confectioners sugar to make dough. All recipes warned to cover your hands with lot of vegetable shortening. Well I didn't have vegetable shortening and just spread normal cooking oil on my hands. Once I started kneading the entire stuff stuck to my hands. I couldn't even pull my hands out for kneading. It took me at least half an hour to control the whole thing.

Second attempt on pineapple flavored cake

Marshmallow fondant

Ingredients
Mini marshmallows 10 oz ( I used kraft brand jet puffed marshmallow. Good quality marshmallows must be used)
Confectioners/powdered sugar 1 lb
Water 2tbsp
Vegetable shortening as needed

Method
Place the mini marshmallows and water in a large microwave safe bowl.
Heat it up in microwave in 30 sec interval until marshmallows melt completely stirring in between every interval.
Once melted add confectioners sugar in small amounts and stir with a spoon coated with vegetable shortening.
Keep adding confectioners sugar and stir until the mixture is thick and difficult to stir.
Spread vegetable shortening on counter top. Spread confectioners sugar on top and pour the mixture on top.
Knead this until a smooth dough is formed. Add confectioners sugar as needed to form the dough.
Cover the fondant in shortening or powdered sugar and immediately wrap it in cling wrap and keep it aside for an hour.
Before using the fondant knead it again to make it smooth.
If you would like to color the fondant, take the required amount of fondant aside and use a tooth pick to add the desired gel color. Knead well to spread the color well.

This fondant is delicious. The fondant will stay well in the refrigerator for 3 days. You just have to cover the fondant well in cling wrap and store in a zip lock bag. You will have to keep it outside for sometime before using and then knead it again to make it smooth. There are many yputube videos that details on making fondant decorations. I tried two types of flowers. I want to learn more and I am still obsessed with fondant decorating even after making two within a week's time.:)



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Thursday, July 3, 2014

A fun random questionnaire

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My friend R who blogs at quintessentially yours tagged me to try this questionnaire. I found it to be a fun one. So here is my take on this.




1.  What’s your favorite genre of music?
I love melodic music that fall under any genre.
2.  What’s the name of the furthest city that you’ve travelled to?
That leaves me wondering whether the reference should be my home town or my current place of living. If it is home town, the farthest city I have traveled to would be my current place of living Reno, Nevada, USA.
3. Who is your favorite author?
Picking one would be difficult. I love books of Jeffrey Archer, Khaled  Hosseini, J. K. Rowling, Jean Sasson and many others.
4. What’s your least favorite chore?
I love cooking. But every other stuff that needs to be done on a routine bores me. I hate all kind of chores. So picking a least favorite is again difficult. But if I have to, that would be dusting.
5. Who is the sexiest person on TV right now?
I don't watch TV at all. So no clue.
6. What would be your ideal job?
Event management. I feel the opportunity to use creativity is the highest in this job.
7. What’s your favorite quote?
I came across this quote just recently but it struck a chord and has left me thinking. So this is my current favorite:
"I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can't make it through one door, I'll go through another door - or I'll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present." Rabindranath Tagore
8. What is the most annoying habit you find in people?
Negative attitude. They not just pull themselves down but everyone around them too.
9. What is the one accessory without which you will not step out of your house? 
My wallet if I am going out alone. My hand bag converted diaper bag if I am going out with Ritu.;)
10. Which 3 items on your “bucket list” do you hope to achieve in the next 5 years?
Learn swimming, perform classical dance, do parasailing.

Now you might be wondering what is the relevance of that picture of a pen I included in this post. Well it is just a random picture for a random questionnaire. It is my colleagues pen. He is left handed. When I first saw this pen I thought someone bend it really bad and then I came to know that it is a specially designed pen for left handed people. Isn't that interesting?
I am leaving this questionnaire open to anybody who would want to give this a try. You can use comments section if you don't have a blog. Enjoy!
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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tofu Caramel Custard Pudding

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As I mentioned in my previous post, we are a dessert loving family. I always wanted to try making a dessert using tofu. I have seen many recipes in the past for chocolate pudding using tofu as main ingredient. But since Arun is not a huge fan of chocolate pudding I thought I will make a vanilla flavored pudding. That's when I thought of caramel custard pudding. My last attempt was a major disaster. I have been thinking of making it again. So I decided to try one using tofu.



I used silken firm tofu and used gelatin to get the pudding to set. Tofu makes it a tad bit healthier even though the pudding has sugar in it.



The caramel is prepared at a low flame as the chances of it getting burnt is very high.

Tofu Caramel Custard Pudding

Ingredients
Firm silken tofu 1 12.3 oz packet (I used organic mori-nu brand tofu)
Sugar 1 cup divided
Vanilla 2 tsp
Knoxx unflavored gelatin 1 tbsp
Water 2 tbsp

Method
Keep small bowl or ramekins ready.
In a heavy bottom pan heat sugar on low flame. Keep stirring to avoid sugar from getting burnt.
When the syrup turns a golden color remove from flame and pour into the prepared vessels.
Tilt the bowls and make sure the caramel coats everywhere.
Blend tofu, sugar and vanilla in a blender until a smooth paste is formed.
Heat water and add gelatin off the flame. Mix to dissolve gelatin.
Add this to tofu paste through a strainer to remove any undissolved gelatin.
Mix and pour to the prepared pudding dishes.
Refrigerate for minimum 6 hours or overnight.


When I checked the pudding after 6 hours I could see that when I tilt the bowl contents were moving around. I was disappointed thinking it didn't set. There was no other explanation. Caramel had hardened at room temperature. So it was weird that it is moving around now. Nevertheless I decided I will check it out and took it out from the refrigerator. That's when I noticed that the pudding has set perfectly. Hurray! :)

Since the caramel was already melted the pudding was all ready to come out. But still inverting it to a plate was a bit tricky. I placed a plate on top of the bowl and inverted both plate and bowl together. Viola my pudding looked smashing in the caramel sauce!

The texture was amazing and pudding tasted delicious. Nothing hints tofu in this pudding. Moreover its much easier to make. This recipe is definitely a keeper.
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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Oven Roasted Spicy Chickpeas

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We are a snacking couple and a dessert family. That is a dangerous combo. So I am making efforts now to prepare healthy snacks at home. I found this recipe for roasted chickpeas and it brought back memories of masala peanuts that we get in bakeries in Kerala.



I was inspired by this recipe. But since we like it spicy I used chilli powder, cumin and salt instead of Cinnamon and sugar. It is easy to make. I made this from dried chickpeas ( after soaking in water overnight and cooking it in a pressure cooker). But you can always use canned chickpeas/ garbanzo beans. That would make the process even more easier.



The key to getting crunchy chickpeas is to get rid of the mositure. I cooked my beans in the evening and let the water drain. Later I pat dried the chickpeas and also left it covered with paper towel overnight.




Oven roasted spicy chick peas



Ingredients

1 (15-ounce) can chick peas (garbanzos)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

Method

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
Rinse and drain the chickpeas very well to remove the starch. Spread them out onto prepared baking sheet and pat very, very dry. The drier the chickpeas, the crunchier they will be. The skin of the bean may peel off as you pat them dry. That is ok. You may remove the skins or leave them on.
Once 100% dry, place chickpeas into the oven and roast for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove from the oven and drizzle with olive oil. Using a large spoon or spatula, mix the beans around to make sure they are all evenly coated. Mix chilli powder and salt and sprinkle over beans. Mix around very well to heavily coat each bean. The beans will be flavorless, so you want to make sure each one is thoroughly coated. Place back into the oven and roast for another 15 minutes.
Leaving the chickpeas inside, turn the oven off and crack open the door slightly. Allow the chickpeas to sit inside as the oven cools down for 30 minutes. This will help them get crunchier as opposed to sitting at room temperature.


These came out to be super crunchy and tasty. All three of us liked it. I made it only mildly spicy as I knew Ritu would also want to munch on these. I stored it in an air tight container and they stayed fresh for 3 days.





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Sunday, June 8, 2014

We are speaking sentences!

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This is a random post on Ritu's talking skills. The way she talks with all hand gestures is fun to watch. It is super cute and at times makes us laugh quite a bit. So I am listing some of them here:


  • Usually, while rolling out chappathis, I give Ritu some dough to keep herself busy. Last night after playing with it for a while she gave the dough to me and said 'kanjufin cow'. I couldn't understand her and she kept on repeating it. It suddenly occurred to Arun that she might be asking 'Can you find cow?'. Now that made half sense. I usually make cow, pig, dog faces from the dough for her. So she wanted me to make a cow with the dough. Usually she just says the animal name 'cow' and I would get it. This day she was trying to use a newly learnt sentence. I am assuming her teacher would have asked her 'can you find ---' while reading picture books to the kids. So these days all questions start with ' can you find'.
  • Ritu loves to see everything I do in the kitchen. Last day I was adding spagetti to a pot of boiling water and she exclaimed, "Pasta swim".
  • There is a recent Malayalam movie 'Kili poyi'. Arun keeps singing the title song which is 'oh oh kili poyi'. Ritu has this habit she picked from school of saying 'oh ho' when something goes wrong like her toy falling down. So now her oh oh is always followed by 'kili poyi' in a tune that is funny and cute to hear. We always end up laughing whenever we hear it.
  • Ritu loves her bath time. The water from the hot water tap takes few minutes to turn warm and she doesn't like the cold water. So when she says 'thanuppu' (cold) I will ask her to wait for sometime and then ask her 'eppazho' (now?). She uses 'eppayo' at many occasions now, few I am not even sure whether its applicable.



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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Easy Peasy No Bake Mango Pie

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I had bought a can of mango pulp for Arun's birthday cake. Since I had some mango pulp left over, I browsed for some ideas to use it up. I found this recipe along with many others like mango lessy, mango mousse. I didn't make it then but bookmarked it for later. So this weekend I decided to try this recipe. It turned out to be 'easy peasy lemon squeezy'* to make, yet tasted delicious.


* - According some sources, "this phrase comes from a 1970's British TV commercial for Lemon Squeezy detergent. They were with a little girl who points out dirty greasy dishes to an adult (mom or relative) and then this adult produces Lemon Squeezy and they clean the dishes quickly. At the end of the commercial the girl says "Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy"."




The recipe uses pre-made pie crust. I bought a 9 inch pre made graham pie crust. But a crust is not at all necessary. You can just set it in a normal dish and call it mango pudding. I also had canned mango pulp I bought from an Indian store here. So I didn't have to take the trouble of extracting pulp from fresh mangoes making it even more 'easy peasy'.




The recipe uses gelatin to make the mango filling firm and requires it to be refrigerated for minimum 6 hours. 

No Bake Mango Pie

Recipe from Cooking Jingalala

Ingredients

Mango pulp - 2 cups
Cream cheese - 8 oz (which is equivalent to 1 cup)
Water - 1/2 cup
Gelatin - 1 packet Knox unflavored gelatin (equivalent to 2 1/4 tsp)
Sugar - 1/2 cup if using unsweetened mango pulp or as needed

Method
  1. Keep the cream cheese outside of refrigerator for an hour or so to bring it to room temperature.
  2. Soften the cream cheese using a whisk. I used a handheld electric mixer with whisk attachment.
  3. Heat water till it boils.
  4. Bring it off the stove and add one packet of Knox gelatin. Mix it well using a whisk until all of the gelatin dissolves. Allow it to cool to room temperature.
  5. Add mango pulp, gelatin to the cream cheese. Add sugar if you are using unsweetened mango pulp. Mix this well using a whisk or an electric mixer. 
  6. Check the sweetness and add more sugar if needed. 
  7. When everything has combined well, pour this mixture to the pre-made crust. The filling would be just correct for a 9 inch pie Cover and refrigerate for minimum 6 hours.
  8. Once it is set, you can use a knife to cut slices and serve.

I used mango pulp and blueberries to garnish a slice. My little one is apparently in love with 'bluelebby'. So they kept disappearing while I was photographing this slice.




This is a delicious dessert with a rich texture. It looks so beautiful with a shiny orange color that you really don't have to garnish It. It is smooth and soft; and melts in the mouth. It is definitely a crowd pleaser. Try it out, I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed.


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Thursday, May 1, 2014

365 days: One frame a day - April 19th

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Imitating her father. I am glad I was able to capture this moment.


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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Butterflies everywhere!

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My daughter loves butterflies. She would say 'poombatta'( means butterfly in Malayalam), just like the cat Kathu in one of the cartoon films she watches. So along with the flowers about which I posted here few days back, we are going to have some butterflies up on the wall too.




I made these butterflies by reusing chocolate wrappers that I have been saving since almost 2 years.


If you thought I painstakingly cut them out myself with such an eye to great details, I am sorry to disappoint you. I cut them out using this awesome Martha Stewart butterfly punch. You just have to insert paper into the slot in  punch and press it to get the paper cut to the shape of the punch.




The other one I have is an edge punch. That can be used to give a lacey look to edges of paper. I used it to punch edges of paper before making this paper pinwheels I shared some time back. I also used it to spruce up this lamp shade.



I love craft punches. It is easy to use but still give your project a sophisticated look. It can help you in achieving perfection without much effort.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Eggless Chocolate Cake in a Mug

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I have tried many a chocolate cake in a mug recipe. It is a quick fix when you crave for chocolate cake as all you need are basic cake ingredients, a mug and few minutes.

The first recipe I tried used an egg and I felt that the taste of egg dominated the cake. The texture was also not great. Later on I tried various other egg-less versions, all came out yummy but the texture resembled a brownie or fudge and not that of a cake.



So my search continued. Whenever I felt like making a chocolate mug cake, I would search for a recipe and then try the one that looks most promising to me that day. That is how I came across this recipe last week. The recipe included a tablespoon of chocolate hazelnut spread aka Nutella in the middle. It is optional and you can omit it if you are not a fan, but I should admit that is the sole reason why I picked this one to try that day. I love Nutella!




Chocolate Mug Cake

Recipe from Table for Two

Ingredients

¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
⅛ tsp. salt
¼ cup + 1 tbsp. milk
2 tbsp. vegetable oil ( I used olive oil)
1 tbsp. hazelnut chocolate spread

Method
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.
  2. Whisk in the milk and vegetable oil until all ingredients are combined and batter has no lumps.
  3. Pour batter into a microwave-safe mug. Use a mug large enough to have some space for the cake to rise without overflowing.
  4. Add 1 tbsp. of hazelnut chocolate spread in the middle of the batter. Just drop it in the middle. There is no need to push it down and sink it in the batter.
  5. Place a paper towel into the microwave and set the mug on top. This is to catch any batter if it overflows.
  6. Microwave mug cake for 70 seconds on high.
  7. Carefully remove from microwave and enjoy, and if you feel indulgent add a scoop of ice cream to the mug.
Notes:
All microwaves are different therefore can yield different results and can overcook or sometimes undercook this mug cake if you aren’t careful. My microwave is 1000 watts and I cooked for 70 seconds. The cake got cooked perfectly in that time. You might have to try a couple of times to figure out the exact time needed in your microwave.

You can totally omit the tablespoon of chocolate hazelnut spread if you want or use a different spread of your choice like peanut butter. The cake itself is moist enough without it.

If you are lazy to wash a bowl and a whisk and feel it kind of defeats the purpose of making a mug cake, you can make this directly in a mug. I tried that myself. But you need to make sure you mix everything well. I used a fork and mixed the dry ingredients first. If you don't mix it thoroughly, lumps of flour or any other dry ingredient can makes its way to the cake. So first mix the dry ingredients very well with a fork and again mix well after adding the wet ingredients. If you don't mix well, you might end up with a bad textured cake.

Now the verdict. This came out to be a very soft chocolate cake and yes it had the texture of a real cake. The Nutella in the middle elevated it to a new level. I would never do a random search for a chocolate mug cake from now on. Yes I am done with my search. I don't think I would find a better recipe than this. If you are a chocolate cake fan this is a must try.
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Monday, April 21, 2014

Vishu - New Year

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Vishu is a festival celebrated in the Indian state Kerala. It is considered the first day of Zodiac calendar. Vishu and Onam are the two festivals I love since childhood. Growing up I remember celebrating both these festivals every year. I want our daughter to also experience the festivities. So we prepared a grand vishukani the day before and also prepared Sadya.

Vishukani is an arrangement of auspicious items intended to signify prosperity. This includes grains and other harvest items like fruits and vegetables, mirror, kanikonna also known as golden shower(Cassia fistula), coins, gold, lamp etc arranged in front of Lord Krishna. This is the first sight you should see in the morning of vishu. We went to a Chinese market past weekend and got jackfruit which is a main fruit used for kani. Since we do not get Kanikonna here, we bought some yellow aster flowers instead. I could not find a smaller mirror the night before, but since mirror is an important part of kani, I used my daughter's toy mirror which cannot be seen in the picture below.



Another interesting part of the festival is vishukaineetam. It is a tradition of elders giving money to younger ones. We gave vishukaineetam to our daughter. We had to give her shiny coins, as she was not interested in the bills/notes.



Sadya (means banquet) involves serving a variety of vegetarian dishes on a banana leaf. We didn't get any banana leaf. But I cooked parippu, pulissery, sambar, rasam, thoran, olan, kichadi, avial, manga acha and ada pradaman. 




We had few of our friends over for dinner and we all had a fun time together. Daughter as always enjoyed the company and was running around all excited.


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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tissue Paper Flowers

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I made few tissue paper flowers last week. I have always wanted to try my hand at making huge tissue paper flowers. But since I made use of the tissue papers we had on hand, these are not as huge as I planned initially.






We are planning to decorate daughter's room. She does not use her room as such. But probably adding some fun elements in the room will help us convert it to her play room.

These flowers would go up in one of the walls. I have few more ideas for her room. I will post more details about the other decorations as I am done.

If you are interested in making tissue paper flowers, check out this link that has a very good tutorial.
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Monday, April 7, 2014

Super Moist Carrot Cake

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It has been sometime since I baked a cake. I mostly bake muffins these days. So last weekend I decided to bake a cake. Since we had this huge bag of organic carrots in the fridge and since I have never made it before, I decided to bake a carrot cake. I searched for a good carrot cake recipe online and stumbled across this recipe from The Pioneer Woman. All the rave reviews confirmed that this would be a good recipe to go by. This recipe uses equal amount of carrots and flour.





This is a heirloom recipe. Reed of the pioneer woman got this recipe from her mom's handwritten recipe book. The recipe is from her mom's friend Sigrid. Now Sigrid's carrot cake recipe is quite famous online. There is an icing recipe too in her post, but I made only the cake. 





Sigrid's Carrot Cake

Recipe from The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients
2 cups Sugar
1 cup Vegetable Oil
4 whole Eggs
2 cups All-purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon ( instead of this I used 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg powder)
2 cups Grated Carrot

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Mix together the sugar, oil and eggs in a large bowl. 
  3. In another bowl sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon( I used nutmeg). 
  4. Add to the first mixture and combine. 
  5. Then add carrots and mix well. 
  6. Pour into a greased and floured and bake at 350F until done, 25 (sheet cake) to 50 (Bundt pan) minutes, depending on the pan you use. I used two 9" round pan and the baking time was 32 minutes.

The carrot cake came out moist and tasty. Even though I read many rave reviews about this recipe, I never thought I would love a carrot cake this much. It was delicious. The orange color of carrot in between the golden brown cake looked awesome. I loved the modification I made of adding nutmeg instead of cinnamon. It gave the cake a subtle kick of spice and balanced the sweetness of the cake. I would definitely make this again. And may be next time I would also try adding some chopped walnuts.
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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Raspberry Banana Whole Wheat Muffin

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I love baking muffins. Especially the ones made using whole wheat flour. I have always followed recipe tried by others. For the first time I have come up with my own recipe. And I am glad that it turned out to be perfect, moist and tasty.





I used raspberry, as we got some organic raspberries on our recent trip to Costco and also, I have never baked using raspberry. So I thought I will give it a try.





Raspberry Banana Whole wheat muffin

Ingredients

Whole wheat flour - 2 cups
Baking powder - 3 Tbsp
Sugar - 3/4 cup
Salt - 1/2 Tsp
Olive oil - 1/4 cup
Milk - 1 cup
Raspberry - 1 cup
Mashed Ripe Banana - 1 cup  (2 bananas)
Egg - 2 nos beaten
Vanilla Extract - 1 Tsp

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Mix 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl.
  3. Beat the eggs in a bowl.
  4. Add milk, oil, mashed banana, vanilla extract and beat for another 2 minutes until everything is well combined. I used a Han mixer but you can do this by hand too.
  5. Coat the raspberry with the remaining flour by gently tossing them together in a bowl.
  6. Add the dry ingredient mixture from step 1 to wet ingredients in step 3 slowly and stir to combine. Do not over mix as that would yield to a very dense muffin.
  7. Fold in the raspberries. To fold in, use a wooden spoon and mix the raspberries in by bringing the batter from bottom of the bowl to the top as if you are flipping a pancake.
  8. Fill the muffin liners upto 3/4th with the batter.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes or until s toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. I used medium muffin pan. Baking time may vary based on pan and oven.

The muffins came out well. They were moist and raspberry gave a nice color in between. But I realized I am not a big fan of raspberry in baked items. I would definitely make use of this recipe again, but would replace raspberry with blueberry. 




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Saturday, March 29, 2014

DIY Indoor Awning

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I love DIY projects. I have not done any major projects yet, but many small ones. I love home decor projects like the DIY wall art in my guest bedroom. One such project which was inspired from an image I saw in some website ( which I am not able to trace now) was to make an indoor awning.

I loved the indoor awning idea and knew right away that I wanted one for my kitchen window.





I searched online for indoor awning projects and figured how I would do it. I measured the width between the cabinets on both sides of the window as I wanted the awning across those cabinets. I measured the rough length of the awning from top of the cabinets. I bought 2 yards of fabric and two tension shower curtain rod. The advantage of using tension rod is that there is no need of any nails or drills. The rod will come with instructions on how to fit it between two spots.

I cut the fabric to the desired width + 4" and length + 8". I also did a scallop design at the end to give it a cafe look. I finished the seams at both sides of the fabric by folding fabric twice by 1". On top I made a pocket for the rod to go through. The extra 8" was for that. I slid the rod through this pocket and fit it on top between cabinets at the far end of cabinets. I set the next rod below towards the near end of cabinets. The fabric was then taken over this rod. I haven't attached fabric to this second rod, but since I used heavy fabric the fabric doesn't slide down.




As they say, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, not everyone would probably like the idea of an indoor awning. But I personally love it. I think it adds a personal touch to my windows. Its modern yet very homey. 






If you would like to make one and have any questions, please use the comment section below. I would be happy to answer your questions.

I am linking this project here:



By Stephanie Lynn
DIY Show Off

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