Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Carrot Mini Muffins

Little Miss Mischief is a big fan of muffins and mini-muffins are of the perfect size for my little muffin. She used to jump with joy exclaiming 'Mashay Mashay Mashay' which I think came from Milkshake but she really meant muffins! Oatmeal banana muffins, Carrot muffins, Wholewheat muffins, Blueberry muffins - she loves them all. Filled with nuts and fruits and wholegrain goodness, muffins used to be my backup solution if she didn't eat well during the lunch or dinner.

She's all grown up now [two years!! who would have thought time flew like this!] and has started going to a montessori school. I made some of these carrot mini-muffins [Adapted from this recipe which is from the La Leache League International cookbook "Whole Foods for the Whole Family"] for her lunch box and kept them nut free. I added some sesame seeds and sunflower seeds to add some crunch. Grated carrots and yogurt keeps the muffins moist. Gone are the muffins of the old days where I used to make dense muffins with no tops. I've f.i.n.a.l.l.y learnt the art of mixing the muffin batter just right, that my muffins are nice and light and fluffy! And these days, my muffins have tops too! Nobody would believe me if I said these are made of wholewheat and absolutely no All Purpose flour (maida).

Whole wheat flour - 1 and 1/4 cup
Wheat germ - 1/4 cup
Baking soda - 1 tsp
Baking powder - 1 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Egg - 1
Maple syrup - 1/2 cup [I also use honey/jaggery/sugar once in a while - All works great!]
Yogurt - 1/2 cup
Olive oil - 1/2 cup [1/3rd cup works too]
Vanilla extract - 1/2 tsp
Grated carrots - 1 and 1/2 cup
Sunflower seeds - 2 Tbsp
Sesame seeds - 2 Tbsp

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Do this step first.

Then, Mix all the dry ingredients together - Wheat flour, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Use a whisk to break any lumps and mix thoroughly. Keep it aside.

Grease your muffin tins. I used 2 mini muffin tins [which makes 12 each] made of Aluminium. You can line them with mini cupcake liner too. Keep this ready before you mix the muffin batter.

Mix all the wet ingredients next - Beat the egg with fork, add maple syrup, olive oil, yogurt, vanilla, grated carrot and the seeds. Mix again with a fork. [Do not use a handheld blender, It changes the dynamics somehow. A fork works perfectly fine!]

Now mix the dry ingredients with the wet ones - use a wooden spatula, mix as less as you can - just until moistened. DO NOT OVERMIX. This is the key. It is okay for the batter to be a bit lumpy. If you over mix, you take out all the air bubbles and the muffin will be dense.

Spoon into the muffin tins and bake for 15-17 mins. Check by inserting a toothpick in and see if it comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.

These muffins freeze well too. And can be warmed up in the microwave.

1. If you do not have wheat germ, increase the wheat flour to 1 and half cup.
2 . You also can add spices like cinnamon , nutmeg, all spice, ginger powder etc. I deliberately kept it simple to please those tiny taste buds.

I'm sending these muffins too, to keep company to the Wholewheat bread with bran and sesame seeds at the JFI Wholegrains meet hosted by Suganya of Tasty Palettes.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Wholewheat Bread with bran and sesame seeds!

Once in a while, some of the creative genes in my body wake up. I'd love to say, they wake up and dance! But to my horror, they just wake up and create a mess. In the kitchen. Now if only I can overlook the mess they make, then I'd say, some of those times resulted in some yummy things. But there was this instance where the creative genes woke up and left absolute no mess - just some yummy yummy goodness called bread! Made with wholewheat grains, wheat bran and sesame seeds. Ah!

The original recipe calls for 7 oz water and some milk powder. I took that and modified it with 8 oz milk in the first version I tried. By now, you all must have known that I'm no baker... If anybody has any questions about that, let me know. I'll send you some specially made hockey-pucks to prove that. I don't really know if the bread needs more liquid or flour. Or if a new recipe from that really good looking bread book will work or not.

But I know that I can confidently stick to my basic recipe, put everything in the bread machine and shut the door. This time, those creative genes wanted to add more milk... and some bran..and some sesame seeds.... I just closed my eyes and let those creative genes goto work. Well, The garbage chute isn't far after all. But I have to say that this resulted in an AWESOME super soft bread. I can't believe that it's a bran bread! I can't believe it is that soft!! I think I am addicted to this bread!!

Milk - 1 cup (8 oz) + 1 Tbsp warmed in microwave
Egg - 1 beaten lightly

Molasses - 1 Tbsp

Sugar - 1 Tbsp

Butter - 2 Tbsp
[Or Olive oil - 3 tbsp]
Whole Wheat bread flour - 3 cups [spooned in and leveled with a knife]

Wheat bran - 1/4 cup
Sesame seeds - 2 Tbsp

Sea salt - 1 1/2 tsp

Bread machine yeast - 2 tsp

Put everything together in the bread machine in the above order [or the order that works for your machine] and set it to Wholegrain setting. Ready to eat in about 4 hrs.
And oh, I'm very happy to send her [why, I mean the bread of course] off to the JFI-Wholegrain meet, to party all night with her fellow wholegrain friends. Thanks Suganya, for hosting this JFI. I totally believe in Wholegrains and their wholesome goodness and use them almost exclusively (except for that damn white rice!) I'm eagerly looking forward for the round up.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Get Preppy - Sprouts

Sprouted moth dal, ready to be frozen

Every time I make sprouts(just any beans), I make a large batch and freeze half of it. Comes in very handy later. I use it later in many dishes, like this one, stir fried with some spices. Sometimes I throw a handful in soups; or in green beans stir fry. I think I could even grind it and use it in adai or dosas or make pesaraddu. I squeeze out as much air as possible from the ziploc bag before freezing and use it within 3 weeks. Garbanzo bean sprouts can be used as an addition to curries or vegetables too.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Move over baking pan, here comes the cast iron grill!

I Love Fish. I love it more when it's roasted in the oven. You might have seen previous posts on roasted fish here and here. This summer, we craved for grilled food, but we couldn't grill outside since we live in a super high rise building with no balcony!

DH and me were talking about this and about the still unused stove top cast iron double burner reversible grill/griddle that we got for a nice deal at $6.99 from the Real Canadian Superstore. I don't have a picture of the grill. Here's a more fancy one. Mine is simpler and does the job. ;) We tried stove top grilling once. While we liked the grilled food, We didn't like the idea of hovering over the grill till the cooking was done. Then it occurred to us that we could just put that grill inside the oven and crank up the heat and just roast the fish inside the oven. We'd also get the crispiness from the grill, as a bonus. I had also read about roasting food at very high temperature in Roasting - A simple art by Barbara Kafka and was looking forward to try that technique.

After trying that once, we are hooked on this method. Now I don't know if I should call this grilling, or roasting. I think I'll settle for grill-roasting! We no longer use the Pyrex baking dish for roasting meat. The cast iron sears the meat before it begins to roast, so the taste is just awesome. Try this method and you'll be hooked too. And guess what? There's another bonus. My grill is well seasoned now and making pancakes on that is a breeze.

Salmon - 1 pound, at room temperature (note #)
Olive oil (or canola oil) - 2 Tbsp

Seasoned Rice vinegar - 2 Tbsp
[I like Marukan]
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp

Pepper powder - 1/2 tsp

Soy sauce - 1 tbsp
Garlic - 4 cloves
Salt - a tiny pinch [since we use Soy sauce]

Please see Note*

Grind everything (other than salmon) to a fine paste (do not make mayonnaise it like, the salmon does not absorb the flavor if it's mayonnaise like). Marinate the salmon for 1/2 hour - marinating the fish overnight (or even just 4 hrs) in the fridge is even better!

Place the grill inside the oven. Grill side up or griddle side up is up to you. I like griddle side up for fish and grill side up for chicken. Grease it up with a tbsp of oil. Preheat the oven to 450

Remember that the grill inside the oven is super hot now. So, place the salmon pieces on the cast iron grill, carefully. Hear that sizzling sound? I love it! Roast 10 mins on one side, 5 mins on the other side. Serve hot. We enjoyed it with tangy vatral kulambu.

Note* : Do NOT use ginger in this marinade, I've tried the recipe with ginger, it's just okay, Not as wonderful as the marinade without ginger! I find that in this recipe, the ginger masks the garlic flavor completely. So, no ginger please. Also do not use sesame oil, in place of olive oil. It wrecks the flavor.

Note # : This recipe and technique would also work for other white fish like catfish, tilapia etc. The cooking time will be lesser compared to Salmon.

Here's a picture of chicken cooked with same marinade and technique, with the grill side up. It was very moist and tender and full of flavor.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Manathakkali Vatral Kuzhambu [Tangy curry made with dried manathakkali berries]

Manathakkali or manithakkali or milagu thakkali is a type of nightshade plant. In English, it is black nightshade. Looks like it is called Makoy or chukkitti keerai. Indosungod also has a picture here. The leaves and berries are very healthy and is a cure for many ailments. Esp. stomach ulcer! I can't remember the number of times my mom fed me these leaves and berries... These plants were always there in the backyard. And if there were too young to cook, then mom bought these from the lady who came door-to-door to sell fresh veggies and green.

The leaves got cooked with tur dal, sometimes with a coconut based masala; sometimes with just plain dal and seasonings. The berries were dried and stored in a glass container which later became the base for the tangy vatral kuzhambu. As a kid, I dreaded these dried berries and their bitterness. I remember lying to the green grocer lady (after eyeing the greens in her basket) to go away because mom isn't home, when mom was right there in the kitchen. :)

These days, it's just the opposite. I love these leaves and berries. I think that's because it's not easily available here. Or maybe because I crave for the comfort that I had in childhood and resort to the foods I had then. But then...

As a rule, man is a fool
When it is hot, he wants it cool

When it is cool, he wants it hot
Always wanting what is not.

Dried manathakkali/milagu thakkali berries - 1 cup
Tamarind - a small lemon size
Coconut - 3 tbsp, grated or 5-6 pices chopped - fresh/frozen only
Sakthi vatral kuzhambu powder - 1 tbsp [I like this one better!]
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Garlic - 5, chopped lenghtwise
Onion - 1, chopped
Curry leaves - 8
Asafoetida - 1/8 tsp or a pinch
Methi/Fenugreek seeds - 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Salt - to taste
Jaggery or sugar - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 1 tbsp

1. Soak the tamarind in hot water for 15 mins and extract the pulp. Grind the coconut to a fine paste and keep it aside.
2. Heat oil and add the mustard seeds. When the seeds pop, add the fenugreek seeds and asafoetida. When the fenugreek turns slightly golden, add the manathakkali berries and roast them for a few mins.
3. Add the onion, curry leaves and garlic. Saute until the onions turn translucent. Add the coconut paste and the vatral kulambu powder, turmeric powder, salt and the extracted tamarind pulp. Let it boil for 15 mins.
4. Just before you remove the curry from the heat, add the 1/2 tsp of jaggery. More of jaggery will sweeten the curry and change the real taste of vatral kulambu. That little amount of jaggery helps to improve the taste of this particular tamarind based curry without sweetening it.
5. Serve hot with rice and pappadums. That's what we usually have. It also goes with roasted or grilled fish.