Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Happy Birthday Mom!!!..and Eggless Chocolate Cupcakes!!

Happy Birthday Mom!!! Hope you have a wonderful, fulfilling year ahead. Wish all your wishes come true ;)

Made you an eggless if only you could have it. :P On this occasion, all I can say is Thank You for everything. Whatever I know and am, I owe to you. I Love you and hope to bake all these goodies for you to savor very very soon <3

This is a wonderful moist eggless recipe for a chocolate cupcake. The recipe is so easy to put together with ingredients almost always in the kitchen and really quick too. Top it with the ganache frosting to make it absolutely irresistible and incredibly delectable.
Thanks to Elise Bauer for sharing this great recipe at Simply Recipes. The gorgeous ganache is courtesy of Alice Currah at Savory Sweet Life.

The Chocolate ganache as Alice explains, can be used in three different ways. I wanted to try piping it out and hence decided to make the ganache first and let it cool down to room temperature where it can be stiff enough to be piped onto a cupcake.

For the Piping Chocolate Ganache
adapted from Savory Sweet Life

12 ounces Chocolate, chopped finely (semi-sweet, sweet or dark..use as per your choice)
1 Cup Heavy Cream
3 tablespoons flavored Liqueor (optional, I just added an extra 3 tablespoons of cream)

Chop the chocolate fine.
Heat heavy cream on medium high until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and immediately add the chocolate. Stir quickly until completely melted and glossy.
For piping or frosting, allow the ganache to completely cool and set up at room temperature. When you are able to spoon the ganache and it can hold its texture, it is ready for piping.
I used Wilton's 4B star tip for piping swirls on my cupcakes.

For the Eggless Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from Elise Bauer's recipe on Simply Recipes

1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
1/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 cup Granulated Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Brewed Coffee (or 1 cup of warm water mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons of espresso powder or instant coffee granules)
1 Tbsp White Vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
6 Tbsp (1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp) Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Prepare a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, vigorously whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt until there are no visible clumps. Cocoa tends to clump up, so make sure you get rid of those.

In a separate bowl, mix together the coffee, vinegar, vanilla extract, and olive oil.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir only until combined. Do not over mix, the mixture should be thin and rather lumpy.

Ladle the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about two-thirds of the way full.

Place in oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Check at the 16th minute mark. I took the cupcakes after 16 minutes and they cooked up perfectly.
Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool on a rack.
 Frost them up once cooled.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sugarless Whole Wheat Banana Nut Bread first ever reader request Post!! Requested by none other than a very very close family friend of ours..Poonam Di, this one's for you :)

Di or Didi is how you respectfully address an elder sister in Hindi. Poonam Di and her family are very dear to us..we have a lot of fun with them. She is a wonderful cook herself and believes in homemade food a lot. In fact, although I loved cooking, as a student I didn't find much time. After moving to the Bay area from Chico State, seeing her cook in her kitchen was truly inspiring. She made and still makes so many things from scratch, grinds fresh garlic and ginger in a mortar and pestle and kneads flour in a food is all quite balanced, wonderful and delicious.
The Whole Wheat Banana Bread has a funny story. The first time I made it, Vibes & I quickly visited them to share it. Coincidentally, Poonam Di had 2 loaf pans baking in the oven of..guess what..Banana Bread. That was some really good Banana bread..agreed it had all the good things in it, but was a wonderful wonderful recipe..hmm, now I think I should ask if she has it.

The whole wheat bread, on the other hand was a lot chewy, not moist and very dense. The results with white flour have to be different, but what I wanted to work for my recipe was the sugarless part of it. The sweetness in my bread comes from Dates. The idea came from my father's silly joke. He would always pop a couple of dates after dinner. When asked , "What are you eating Papa?" The answer would always be a goofy, "Poor man's dessert..Dates." Dad has had healthy food habits forever, so he would always choose dates over an ice-cream, which is what we would have occasionally. (Anyone remember Choco Bar? ;) :D..Anyways, the ice-creams were quite expensive, at least for he would mock at us by calling dates as a poor man's dessert..LOL

This is a very healthy recipe. No sugar, no butter, made with  wheat flour and added nuts make it the best evening snack when we come home from work with a super growling tummy :). I have been working on it for over 3 years now. Every batch is better than before. I have too many notes and alterations, but today I played with a few more ingredients, and may I say, it is the best batch ever. It rose perfectly. The wet dry ingredient proportion seemed to finally work. It is moist and very much bread like. I sometimes have it as a quick breakfast, while stepping out the door. Definitely Growling Tummies Approved..Oh and an original Growling Tummies recipe too. (Copyrights Reserved ;)

Sugarless Whole Wheat Banana Nut Bread
Original recipe by Jyoti Choudhary
2 1/2 cups Wheat Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
3/4 cup Walnuts
1/4 cup Raisins (optional)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Cinnamon (optional, but awesome)

4 medium sized Ripe Bananas
1 Whole Egg + 1 Egg White
1/2 cup Buttermilk (See Notes Below)
1 cup Chopped Dates
2 tablespoons Honey

Mix the first 7 dry ingredients well in a big enough bowl. Whisk and keep aside.

Blend 1 cup chopped dates with 1/2 cup buttermilk to get a smooth paste. If you do find the dates to be a little tough to grind up, add a banana to this paste and you will start to get a shake like consistency.

Add the remaining 3 bananas one at a time and keep blending the mixture well.

Add this date/buttermilk/banana blend to the flour mixture in the bowl. Mix well.

Add the eggs and honey and mix well. The batter will be thick.

Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with some cooking spray (Pam)

Pour batter in the prepared loaf pan. Smooth out the top with a spatula. Allow to rest for 10-15 minutes in the pan.

Meanwhile, arrange the oven rack in the middle and preheat the oven to 350°F

Place the pan in the oven once heated, for 40-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean. After the 30 minute mark keep checking every 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes. Unmold and allow the bread to cool completely on a wire rack.

All set to be buttered up..Pair it with my Cinnamon n Spice Peanut Butter..or make it into a French toast..tastes great!! Let me know how you like it!!

  •  Buttermilk: I make my own. For a 1/2 cup of buttermilk; add 1/2 tablespoon white vinegar to an empty measuring cup and then add milk to bring it to the 1/2 cup measuring mark.
  • Aluminium or Stoneware Loaf Pan: I use a stoneware loaf pan and it took me 50 minutes with my oven. If you are using an aluminium loaf pan the baking time may differ. It is said that glass baking dish attains and retains the heat around cakes and breads, hence takes less time to bake. So, in my head the bread could take a while longer, so always keep checking with a toothpick after the 30 minute mark.
  • Eggs: I used 2 whole eggs but experimented by eliminating one egg yolk and the results were great. Next time I might use 3 egg whites instead. If you try this, please let me know the results.
  • Flavors: You can really mix it up to make different flavors of Banana Nut Bread. I have used a teaspoon of Cinnamon in here. But, I have used 3 tablespoons of Unsweetened Cocoa powder to give it a lovely chocolate flavor. I have also added 2 tablespoons of Instant Coffee, lovely lovely coffee flavor.You could also add 1/2 teaspoon of Vanilla essence, if you like that...Let your imagination wild.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Tell me a story...Zao's copycat Thai Curry Soup

Once upon a time there was a Zao's Noodle Bar. A lovely lady worked close to one in Palo Alto. Each day she would walk down to the joint with a growling tummy and be back with a huge bowl of Yellow Curry Soup full of flavors, vegetables and Noodles. She was so addicted, that she introduced it to her then boyfriend (now hubby), who got hooked on to it, despite vegetables (I had to crack this joke;)..Ahem.. Soon she no longer worked close to it, but the love for the Yellow Curry soup was very strong. Both morons would drive 20 min each way, at least twice a week for a take out, and it was the same freaking order each time..2 Yellow Curries! So much so, that the servers and staff would write the order down as soon as they heard 'This is Rao' over the phone.
That's a bowl of pure goodness!!
Soon they realized it wasn't a practical dinner option, so she decided to take the plunge and tried to make this at home. Alas, the soup did not taste well. Then Zao's closed down..their hearts ached..she tried again but failed terribly..then gave up...But one day..Let's just fast forward to 5 years, cos I don't intend to bore you with my terrible story telling anymore!

Story telling is an art I don't possess..My Dad, yes..Papa is the best story teller ever. Growing up, my sister and I have heard the best, most innovative and beautiful stories at bed time. He had a flair to produce these most beautiful characters with lovely personalities and strong values. These stories were not regular fairy tales..he created them from was his way to inculcate values and teach us some morals and life lessons. Today, my niece enjoys his wonderful stories at bed time and also tells me some with self-interpreted morals :). I am so thankful for those bed-time interactions. I have learnt to reflect on everything, try and learn from it and maybe better it next time. Thanks Papa!!!

The result, such gorgeous looking bowls of fulfilling soup!!! :D..The moral of the story, 'Try & try till you succeed (without breaking the my niece would say it!! ;).'
The color is vibrant and the gingery aroma so inviting.
The flavors are complex..begins a bit salty from the soy sauce, then a bit sour from the lime, spicy from all the chilli in there and ends sweet from the palm sugar/jaggery/brown sugar, just how I remember at Zao's. It's actually these 4 ingredients that when added in a balanced way, produces this flavorful soup. Be ready to taste and test as you go.

Look at the lovely colors of all the vegetables..who could possibly say no to that. These do look like a lot and there is a fair amount of chopping in this recipe. So, yeah if possible get some help. Vibes always helps, but I have done it all by myself and the whole meal from start to end took about 40 minutes, including chopping..not bad eh?

It's a very versatile recipe too. First, I use all the ingredients usually available at home. You don't have to run around to hunt for lemongrass or galangal or even palm sugar. Who needs another bag of sugar? (I have 4-5 different types..phewww) You can make it completely vegetarian or add your choice of meat to it.
This is a perfect recipe for people wanting Thai food without any meat interventions. I don't use fish sauce in the recipe. For the protein, I usually use Tofu..but don't think you have to be bound to eating it veg only. I have added shrimp and chicken instead of tofu and it tastes great. For the broth I use low sodium Veg or Chicken hard and fast rules.
This is a perfect one pot meal on a cold cold night. Definitely Growling Tummies APPROVED!!!!..actually it's also Growling Tummies Created..pat on the back ;)

Thai Red Curry Soup (Zao's copycat)
Recipe by Jyoti Choudhary © (I have tears rolling own recipe)
For the Broth
1 Bunch Green Onions, finely diced (dice both, the green and white portions)
1 1/2 tablespoons Fresh Ginger, finely minced
1 1/4th tablespoon Red Curry Paste (Available at Whole Foods. I have used many other, but the Thai Kitchen brand suited our tastes the best)
1 can unsweetened Coconut Milk (I use full-fat..Feel free to use the light version. I have tried it .,'s a nice lighter soup..but we love the full-fat version for this soup ;)
2 cups Water (Use the same can and add 1 1/2 can of water..Use less if using the light version of Coconut milk)
1/2 cup Low Sodium Broth (Chicken or Veggie, does not matter..but try to use Low Sodium)

The Bulk (Veggies/Meat/Noodles)
Feel free to make any substitutions here. Let the creative juices and personal tastes flow :)
6-7 Crimini Mushrooms, finely sliced
1-2 Baby Bok Choy, chopped
1 small Broccoli Head
6-7 Baby Carrots, chopped
1/2 Red/Orange/Green/Yellow Bell Pepper, sliced lengthwise
1 Zucchini, sliced
1 Yellow Squash, sliced
1 Cup Baby Spinach
1/4 cup Water Chestnuts (optional, if you can find them)
8-10 Basil Leaves, add whole or chiffonade
1 packet Light Firm Tofu, cubed (if making vegetarian)
2 Chicken Breasts or 1/4th pound Shrimp, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces (if making non-veg)
Just a handful of Noodles (Divide a regular Stir-fry Noodle packet into 5..I use Brown Rice Noodles from Whole Foods)
1-2 tablespoons finely chopped Cilantro (optional for garnishing)

For Flavoring
1/4-1/2 teaspoon Fresh Lime/Lemon juice
1/4-1/2 teaspoon low sodium Soy sauce
2 - 2 1/2 tablespoons Jaggery/Palm Sugar/Brown Sugar
1/8 th teaspoon Turmeric Powder (optional)
1/4 th teaspoon Chilli powder (optional)
1 teaspoon Chilli Sauce (I use Ching's..but Sriracha should work too..Also, adjust per your taste)

Bring a pot of water to boil for the noodles and cook it to al dente as per the instructions on the box. I do this half way through the soup. I like to dump freshly drained noodles directly into the soup, so they don't get cold and sticky. So feel free to do so, this is just a reminder if using noodles at all.

Drain the tofu (if using) cut up into cubes. Heat a wide pan on medium flame and spray very lightly with Pam. Gently place the tofu on the pan and allow it to crisp up on low-medium flame. I never salt the tofu, but you can if you like to. Keep an eye on the tofu though. If using chicken or shrimp, you could either bake or pan fry them similarly with some salt and spices. Keep aside.

Meanwhile, in a separate deep pot on medium flame, heat a tablespoon of oil (I use olive can use any other). Add the minced garlic and saute until aromatic. Add the chopped green onions and saute for an additional 2-3 minutes.

Add the Thai Red curry paste to this and saute until aromatic. Add 1/4th teaspoon chilli powder and an 8th of teaspoon of turmeric powder. Saute for a minute and now it's time to add a cup of your fav broth. To this add vegetables that would need some time to cook. I like to add the zucchini, bell peppers, chopped baby carrots and squash at this point.

Add the can of coconut milk and use the same can to add a can and a half of water. Add all chopped vegetables of your choice, except spinach. I add baby bokchoy, broccoli, mushrooms and few basil leaves if I have any. Lower the flame.

Time to flavor the soup and taste test it. Begin with 1/4th teaspoon of Lime/Lemon juice and equal amount of Soy sauce (Soy sauce and lime juice are in 1:1 proportions). Then add desired amount of chilli sauce like Sriracha or similar. I use Ching's easily found in India grocery stores, and add about a teaspoon of it, sometimes more.

Finally add 1 1/2 tablespoon of Palm Sugar/Brown Sugar or Jaggery. Jaggery is easily found in Indian grocery stores. A full cube corresponds to 2 tablespoons of sugar. I usually cut 3/4 of the cube and throw it in. Now mix well and taste it. Adjust the flavors as per your liking. In my experience, the best combination is 1/2 teaspoon each of Soy sauce and lime juice with 2 1/4 tablespoon of palm sugar for the recommended amounts of liquid.

Once you are happy with the taste, you can add your protein in there. Tofu, meat and noodles go in the end. Give it a good stir. Add baby spinach or some cilantro leaves if you like and give it final boil. Keep stirring or the coconut milk does tend to curdle a bit..and I don't like that ;). Serve hot. This is a whole one-pot feel free to take 2 servings :D

It is a very rewarding soup once you master it. I always have left overs for lunch the next day and I savor every sip of it :)..Happy Chopping ;)