Sunday, April 27, 2014

Butterflies everywhere!


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.

Read More »

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Eggless Chocolate Cake in a Mug


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


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

  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.
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.
Read More »

Monday, April 21, 2014

Vishu - New Year


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.

Read More »

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Tissue Paper Flowers

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.
Read More »

Monday, April 7, 2014

Super Moist Carrot Cake

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

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

  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.
Read More »

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Raspberry Banana Whole Wheat Muffin

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


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


  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. 

Read More »