Saturday, February 28, 2015

Caramelized Toasted Bread - A Sweet Breakfast for kids

While making the Lemon Cookies I did something to speed up bringing the butter to room temperature which involved using a microwave and the end results were not pretty. I heated the butter for a bit too long in the microwave and it completely melted. A little bit longer it would have been ghee. I could have stopped and used the melted butter. Instead I added the sugar and tried to cream it like the recipe called for. Not a smart idea. It did not cream :(



Common sense returned. I kept aside the well mixed butter sugar mixture aside wondering what use I can put it to. Couple of days later when I was wondering what breakfast to make when this idea struck.



Who doesn't like caramelized sugar? This is less of a recipe and more of an idea. As for it being a kid breakfast depends on you. There is no reason for adults not to have a couple of slices.



Caramelized Toasted Bread
Preparation Time:5 minutes
Cooking Time:15 minutes
Ingredients
  1. 8-10 slices of whole wheat bread
  2. 1/4 tbsp of butter
  3. 1/4 cup of sugar

Method
  1. Mix together melted butter and sugar. It is better to make it ahead of time, let it cool and let it thicken a bit.
  2. Now heat a griddle for toasting the bread.
  3. Apply the butter sugar mixture for each of the bread slices.
  4. Toast the bread on the hot griddle till the sugar melts, flip and cook on the other side. The darker the color the crunchier and tastier it is.
I call it breakfast but it is good as a dessert.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lemon Cookies

I was not entirely surprised or shocked to see this news couple of days ago, Early exposure to peanuts helps prevent allergies in kids. Duh! It seems half the world already knew this before the so called developed countries.

When DD was about couple of weeks or may be it was a couple of months old we took her to the pediatrician and when we were talking about gas and stuff, she asked me about my diet. For all this the doctor was South Asian - either from India or SriLanka. To avoid flatulence in the baby, she asked me to stay off dal, any cruciferous vegetables - cabbages, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and also root vegetables. Left me wondering what exactly I was supposed to eat and my mother scratching her head as what to cook. How are you supposed to eat well when everything was in the avoid list?

Mom mentioned that back home they encourage mothers to introduce all kinds of foods to the babies when they are ready to eat solid food. I am not particularly certain about peanuts but I know for sure eggs, milk and nuts are not off limits. This is so the babies' intestines learn to adapt to all kinds of foods. Makes sense. Probably also explains why peanut, milk and nut allergies are mostly uncommon over there. There might be a few exceptions of course.

DD and DD2 for the first year of their life were taken care of by their grandmothers, which meant they were fed foods that they knew(the grandmothers knew I mean) and that turned out to be a good thing.

So folks who think that conventional thinking in the US is correct don't bet on it. It usually takes multiple studies and research to come to the conclusion about diet what the rest of the world already knows through experience and knowledge.

Well anyway that is that. On the other hand as far as baking goes, US is in the forefront of all the related gadgets and techniques. No worries there.




So why lemon cookies? Here is the story.


Lemon is the star in these cookies

We had a late morning meeting at one software company office. They had the lot of the usual breakfast pastries to munch on and gain a few calories. For people like me who cannot resist sweet stuff, this is generally a bad thing. Anyway it is not entirely appropriate to look the gift horse in the mouth. So I won't comment on the nature of the food.

Anyway the piece of cake which looked like pound cake but yellower caught my eye. It was Lemon Pound Cake and absolutely delicious and of course the yellow color was probably due to the addition of food coloring. The urge to try out lemon pound cake became strong. I picked up a few lemons from the store for the express purpose of trying out the pound cake.

When it came down to it I wanted to try something else interesting with lemon and I remembered this recipe I had seen on Martha Stewart. Whatever we think of Martha Stewart, one thing is certain her recipes are precise and they rarely fail.

If I can bake with success anybody can. The glaze on the other hand, I did not follow the recipe exactly and instead of a glaze I got a pudding like consistency and with lemon juice being in excess of the sugar a nice tart taste.

Recipe in pictures,

Mix the dry ingredients together - flour,soda, lemon zest and salt. Cream together butter and sugar using an electric egg beater till it is nice and fluffy. Add the egg and whisk it for couple more minutes.
Add in the lemon juice. Now transfer the butter mixture to the flour.
Mix the butter and flour using the egg beater till they look crumbly. Then using a spatula mix them together completely.
Place a tbsp of the dough onto cookie sheets separated by at least 1 inch and bake in the preheated 350F oven for 12-15 minutes till it starts browning at the edges.
Let the cookies cool on a wire rack. Prepare the glaze.
Apply the glaze on the cookie and cool for an hour.

With a hint of lemon and the lemony glaze make these cookies a delight to eat.



Lemon is the star in these cookies

Lemon Cookies
Preparation Time:20 minutes
Cooking Time:15 minutes
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup whole wheat white flour (leveled measurement)
  2. 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour (leveled measurement)
  3. a little less than 1 cup of sugar, I used fine cane sugar(recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar)
  4. 1/2 cup or 8 tbsp butter (mine was salted) preferably at room temperature
  5. a pinch of salt(since I had used salted butter) else 1/2 tsp salt
  6. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  7. 1 egg (I used medium sized egg)
  8. 1 tsp of lemon zest( recipe called for 1 tbsp) (see note:)
  9. 1/4 cup lemon juice
  10. Note:I find that lemon jest tastes bitter so I do not use too much, if you like the taste use the full 1 tbsp.

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Using an electric egg beater which works best or whisk, cream together the butter and sugar till it nice and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and beat for a minute more, followed by the lemon juice mix it in well.
  4. In a wide mouthed mixing bowl take the flour, salt, lemon zest and baking soda and whisk together.
  5. Transfer the contents of the butter mixture to the flour and run the egg beater a couple so it is look crumbly but more or less mixed.
  6. Using a spatula, mix the dry and wet ingredients till they come together.
  7. Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and drop about 1 tbsp of dough leaving an inch between them. (see note:)
  8. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes till the edges start turning golden.(see note:)
  9. Cool for about 5 minutes and then if desired glaze the cookies(take a spoon and drizzle the glaze on the cookies) and cool again for about an hour or more.
  10. Note:
  11. Rolling the dough between the palm of your hands into round shapes make the cookies turn out even shaped and round after baking.
  12. The time more or less depends on the oven. In mine at 14 minutes they were already starting to turn golden. The recipe says 15-20 minutes. So it is good to check at 12 or 14 minutes.

For the Glaze
  1. 2 cups of confectioners sugar (I used 1/4 cup)
  2. 1/3 cup of lemon juice (I used 1/3 cup)
  3. All the recipe requires is to mix the two together.
  4. I on the other hand, heated the sugar and the lemon juice on the stove till they become a little bit thick. If you
    use this method the glaze will be sticky but extremely lemony.


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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Red Beans and Rice - Costa Rican inspired

I was talking to one of my colleagues about our Costa Rican trip and he was wondering if he should go there. Well there are many reasons why people travel. His reason for travel is food, tasting different kinds of food. So when he asked me about Costa Rican food I wasn't able to give him too much of a reason. Costa Rican food is very simple, nothing exotic about it and it is not very spicy. You would not travel to Costa Rica for food.



South American Red Beans

Anyway the Red Beans and Rice which they served with pretty every meal slowly grew on us. The next thing to do is try it out at home. The kids seems to like it a lot. Though in Costa Rica it was common on the breakfast table I prefer it for lunch or dinner. Mine is slightly spicier not exactly a lot spicier.

The Louisiana style Red Beans and Rice is slightly different than this one in that beans is cooked separately and served over rice. Whereas this one the rice and beans are cooked together. Most Latin American countries have their own versions of red beans and rice. Some have meat in them and some don't. The one we saw in Costa Rica was purely vegetarian.

While canned beans can be used, it is lot tastier to use dried beans which have been soaked overnight. Also red beans and rice is a dish that is made to use up the left over rice. I never plan that much ahead so I use freshly cooked rice. It is a lot easier to handle if the rice is spread on a plate and cooled.

Here is the recipe in pictures,

Heat oil in a wide mouthed pan and saute the onions till they start to turn a little brown. Add garlic, saute for a couple of minutes and then add in the chopped bell pepper and saute for 4-5 minutes.
Add in the chopped jalapeno if using or the chipotle pepper along with the chili powder and cumin powder. Mix. Add in the coriander leaves and mix it in as well. Add salt.
Add in the cooked rice and mix it into the vegetables.
Add the cooked salted beans and mix it into the rice.




Red Beans and Rice - Costa Rican inspired
Preparation Time:15 minutes + overnight soaking of the beans
Cooking Time:25 minutes
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups Long Grain White rice
  2. 2 cup dried red beans (South American Red Beans)
  3. 1/4 cup diced red onions
  4. 3-4 garlic cloves chopped
  5. 1 green bell pepper diced into 1/2 inch dice
  6. 2 tsp red chili powder
  7. 2 tsp cumin powder
  8. 1 chipotle pepper + 2 tsp of the adobo sauce finely chopped or 1 jalapeno de-seeded and chopped fine
  9. handful coriander leaves chopped
  10. salt to taste
  11. 2 tsp oil

Method
  1. Cook the red beans, they should be whole and not mushy.
  2. Cook the rice and set it aside to cool (See Note:)
  3. In a wide mouthed pain heat the oil and add the onions and saute till they turn slightly brown. Add in the chopped garlic and saute for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the chopped bell pepper and let it cook for about 4-5 minutes, it should still be crunchy.
  5. Add in the chipotle pepper, chili powder and cumin powder. Give a good mix.
  6. Add the chopped coriander leaves and mix it in. Add half the amount of salt. Mix. Lower the heat to low medium.
  7. Add in the cooked rice and mix it in well.
  8. Drain the beans, add a bit of salt and add to the rice. Mix it in well
  9. Note: A day old rice works well.
  10. Serve with corn tortillas, with a an egg and sliced avocados.

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