Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Morning Muffins

Merry Blueberries Lil Miss Bubbly with her harvest of the berries had announced at the blueberry farm - 'tomorrow, we are going to have blueberry muffins for breakfast!' Mr Ken goes - 'Awesome! You should have your mom make blueberry cobbler too!' Mommy thinks hmm, I wonder if I have a muffin recipe saved.

Come muffin morning, confident with her always successful banana bread, mommy decides to give it a shot. Armed with her whip in one hand and the antique looking sheet of banana bread recipe in the other, it was recipe tweaking on the fly. Miss Bubbly helped by looking everywhere to find the missing 1/4 cup measuring spoon. Finally mommy found it in the bag of flax meal, sitting snug inside the freezer. 'At least it is not a cookbook this time', dad teases.

Yes, Mommy has saved a cookbook in the freezer. She then searched for it everywhere for the next 6 months. A long time ago.

Wheat bran.. flax meal.. what else? Measure, mix, fold, bake.
After about an hour, it was tasting time!!

Mommy by now had scribbled down everything that went in.
The milk was an almost last minute addition - otherwise it would have turned out to be a cookie!

Ingredients -
All purpose flour - 3/4 cup
Blueberries - 3/4 cup
Raw unrefined sugar - 1/2 cup
Butter - 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons)
Milk - 1/2 cup
Egg - 1
Wheat bran - 1/4 cup
Flax meal - 1 tbsp
Aluminum free baking soda - 1/4 teaspoon
Baking powder - 1/4 teaspoon
Salt - 1/4 teaspoon

Method -
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Powder the wheat bran and the flax meal in a spice grinder as fine as possible.
In a mixing bowl, add the flour, the powdered mixture, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix really well with a whisk to combine.
In another bowl, beat the butter. Add the sugar and beat until well creamed. Add the egg and beat well. Add the mixed flour. Add the milk and mix without any lumps. Fold in the blueberries.
Line a muffin pan with paper muffin liners. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups until they are about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. In mommy's mini muffin pan, it took 26 minutes to be precise.

Feed your hungry family.
Muffins n milk? Muffins n orange juice ?
Muffins n cheese-omlette and milk?
That did it for Miss Bubbly this morning.
Muffins n onion-green-pepper-cheese-omlette and coffee for mom and dad.

Yield - 16 mini muffins.
12 for breakfast, 3 for an afternoon snack, 1 for a pre dinner snack for Miss Bubbly.

Oh the verdict. As a tweaked-on-the-fly muffin, this turned out to be reallly good. Not to mention the flax and bran that mommy sneaked in! Priceless.

However, some of the berries that went in the muffin were sour!
Very amateur berry pickers we turned out to be. When you eat them as is out of the bag, (or straight from the bush following Mr Ken's advice) you mostly remember the sweet ones that you don't pay attention to the sour ones that you happen to stumble upon.

We should have paid attention to Mr Ken when he said, 'start from the eighth row, y'all. I have a flag right there on the post so you don't miss it'. Mommy and daddy just followed their very own berry picking leader who ran to the other side of the farm. No wonder there weren't any u-pick customers there!

LOL. We'll be back in a few weeks Mr Ken! This time we'll pay close attention.

Blueberry picking and Bagare Baingan

Saturday night I had to bribe Miss Bubbly to sleep. It was my third bribe that day!

'..(yawn) ..I wish I wake up tomorrow and (yawn) do everything we did today alll over again'. She was asleep in 2 minutes.

After a fun day blueberry picking, we stopped on our way back to buy her a promised treat. Back home and after lunch, Miss Bubbly and her dad had way too much fun the rest of the afternoon while I napped dreaming about muffin morning tomorrow. I woke up and started napwalking to the coffee machine. What a pleasure to wake up to the smell of extra strong mocha brewing fresh. Talk about a caffeine kick!

The purple blueberries had reminded me of the purple baingans waiting for me in my fridge. Tonight is a baingan night.

All my efforts to make bagare baingan taste like my moms have ended up futile. Mom's recipe involved deep frying baingans. I gave in and did it anyway the few times I made it. They tasted better than average. Just not quite as fingerlicking as hers. Finally I had found a simpler recipe (!) which I had written down. Tonight I decided to give a shot.
I am glad I did.

Ingredients -
Brinjals - small, round- 8 -10
Onions - 2 large, sliced
Ginger - 1 inch piece, minced
Garlic - 2 pods, minced
Jeera - 1/2 tsp

To grind -
Groundnuts - Roasted and peeled, 1/4 cup
White sesame seeds - 2 tbsp
Grated coconut - 2 tbsp
Channa Dal - 2 tsp
Coriander Seeds - 1 tbsp
Red Chillies - 3 or 4 according to taste
Jeera - 1/2 tsp
Cloves - 4 or 5
Cinnamon - 1 inch piece
Cardamom - 3 or 4
Tamarind pulp - extracted from a lemon sized tamarind ball
Jaggery - a small piece

Method -
Slit the cleaned brinjals into 4, keeping them intact on one end.
In a pan, roast all the dry spices separately and add them one after the other to a mixie jar. Now pulse a few times, until it is well powdered.
In the same pan, heat about 1 tbsp oil and fry half of the sliced onions. After 1 or 2 minutes, add the minced ginger and garlic and fry again. Add the fried onions and ginger garlic, the tamarind pulp and the jaggery to the mixie jar and grind to a smooth paste and keep aside.
In the same pan, add 1 tbsp oil and fry the remaining half of the onions and the jeera and fry well until the onions are soft. Remove the fried onions to a plate.
Add 1 tsp oil and saute the slit brinjals. Sprinkle about 1 tsp salt and some turmeric powder. Saute for a good 4 or 5 minutes. Now remove the pan from fire and slowly add about 1/2 cup of water.

Yes, there will be a little bit of spluttering involved. My fire alarm got worried at this point.

After adding water, return the pan to fire. Cover and cook for a good 15 minutes. When you open it, You should see that the baingans are reasonably cooked.

Remove them to the same plate as the fried onions, reserve the cooking liquid. To this pan, add the ground paste and 1 tbsp oil. Fry well for about 7 or 8 minutes until the raw smell disappears.
Add the fried onions, the cooked brinjals with the reserved liquid, about 1 cup of water and check for salt. Simmer covered for another 5 minutes. Remove from fire, and set aside while you chop the coriander leaves for garnish.

I like to make Rotis at this point giving the spices in the curry a chance to mix n mingle. Grandmas call it paathra-paakam.

After the rotis are made, transfer the curry to a serving dish - (I served it as is - It was 10 PM!)
Thank god it is a Saturday.

For Miss bubbly, I made a deep fried baingan subji to eat with rotis. All this spice in the curry is too much for lil bubbly. Thanks to my loving friend for sharing this delightful kid-friendly recipe.

Fried Brinjal Subji -

Slice about 4 cleaned brinjals. In a bowl, add the sliced brinjals, salt, turmeric powder, 1 tbsp coriander powder, and mix well. Add chilly powder if you like.

Dip the discs into hot oil and drain on paper towels. Bubbly loves her rotis with dry sabjis.
Roti, Subji and curd. So simple. So blissful.
Mommy loves a slice of raw onion to go with it. Add 1 whole green chilly? Bliss++.

So Mommy fed the half asleep bubbly while she listened to her favorite tale of Basil Fretfrumos who bravely fought and defeated the witch Kloyanthsa & the six dragons. Basil couldn't do all this without the help of the pretty Elana Kosinsana whose big brother was the mighty Sun himself.

Another bed time story? We'll read it tomorrow, love.
Err.. tomorrow will be here in about 30 minutes.

(Yawn) (Yawn).

The bagare baingan was declared a big success.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Chickpea Biriyani

This is a simple recipe, although verrry yummy.
How can I thank you enough, Chithi for this simply wonderful recipe! My Chithi(my mom's younger sister) is an amazing cook. I remember the almond halwas she brought us once when she came to visit us. Literally melts in your mouth. My salivary glands were suddenly in fifth gear. Makes your cheeks hurt.

My first taste of bagara baingan was when she made it along with my youngest chithi in my grandmother's kitchen. Then came another delicacy - stuffed bhindi masala, oh I won't even start.

So one day I beleive 3 or 4 years ago, she sends this handwritten & scanned recipe of her channa biriyani in an email. I jumped on it instantly. All the little monkeys that I served this dish to have loved eating it. I don't let their mommies leave without telling them how easy it is to make it. Kudos to you Chithi!!

Ingredients -
Basmathi Rice - rinsed and drained - 2 cups
Onion - 1 medium or large
Garlic - 1 or 2 pods, sliced
Ginger - 1 inch piece, sliced
Green chillies - 1 or 2 or more according to taste
Tomatoes - 2 medium, diced
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
White Kabuli chana - soaked in water overnight - 1 cup
Salt - according to taste

Whole spices -
Clove - 6 or 8
Cinnamon - 1 inch piece
Cardamoms - 5 or 6
Saunf - 1/2 tsp, optional

Method -
Heat about 2 tbsp ghee and add the whole spices. When they slightly brown, add the onions, ginger and garlic, and green chillies. Saute for about 5 minutes until the onions have softened. Now add the tomatoes, turmeric powder and salt. Mix well and cover with a tight fitting lid for about 2-3 minutes.

After the tomatoes are partially cooked, add the soaked channa and mix well. Now, to this mixture, add the rice and saute. To make sure the grains don't get broken, do this quite gently. Saute for about 4-5 minutes, then transfer to a pan (that you can put inside a pressure cooker).

Add 4 cups of water, check for salt, and pressure cook like you do rice. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve.

Lil Miss Bubbly looves to pick out the channa and eat them first. Then she mixes up the rest with curd and enjoys it, with the proclamation - yes, you guessed it. Makes Mommy smile :)

LOL. Enjoy!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Beets and Blackeyed peas

My little one loooves salad buffet places. Every week after piano, we have a little mommy and me dinner at this made from scratch soup and salad place which she totally looks forward to. Or if we are eating at home, on most days I would have toor dal as an easy option - as most South Indians do. As kids we grew up savouring it. I remember sitting on the floor in our porch during the scorching summer months with my great aunt feeding my little brother. I must have been nine or maybe ten. White rice, cooked and mashed toor dal with salt, turmeric powder, topped with ghee. I can't exactly remember what vegetables he had. The next course would be rasam saadam. Rasam and cooked white rice, topped with ghee. Rasam made with cumin and a dash of pepper. Nothing fancy. Just the right amount of spice. If there is still room in his little tummy, course three - thayir saadam (curd rice). Stories about Raja(s) and Rani(s). I would get so lost in mami's stories. Hungry for more now. Mami passed away a few months ago. So many memories are flashing through my mind.

Fast forward to 2009 - tired of starting to eat dinner with rice, ghee and toor dal my little one would whine - 'oh, no, not this again!'... please, anything but this!! ' I have borrowed the idea of mulakooshyam from my friend with reasonable success. But some days, I don't have the patience for it. I came up with this thoran in an effort to combine veggies and legumes, inspired by Mahanandi. I have tried a bunch of Indira's recipes, all with great success.

Ingredients -
Beetroot - 2 or 3, peeled and finely chopped
Beet stems and greens - separate them from the roots, rinse & clean extra well, chopped
Onion - 1 large, sliced
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Jeera (Cumin seeds) - 1/2 tsp
Red chillies - 1, for flavor
Curry leaves - 1 sprig, cleaned
Garlic - 1 or 2 pods, sliced
Black eyed peas - 1/2 cup
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp

Method -
Clean and rinse the blackeyed peas and pressure cook with some salt and some turmeric powder. You want them to be cooked just right. Not mushy. Pressure cookers vary, in mine it takes 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a pan, add mustard and cumin. When they splutter add the garlic, red chilly, curry leaves and onion. Saute for a good couple of minutes until the onions are soft. Now add the chopped beetroot, along with the chopped greens. Add salt and turmeric powder and mix evenly. Sprinkle a handful of water and cover with a lid. Bring the heat down to low, and let it cook for a few minutes. The stalk and leaves wilt and this releases some moisture. However, keep an eye on it so it doesn't stick to the bottom.

After the beets are done, add the cooked black eyed peas to the pan. I like to use the cooking liquid from the peas in sambar or rasam - don't waste the precious nutrients. Saute uncovered for a few minutes until there is not much moisture left. In a mixer jar, add the grated coconut and green chillies and pulse for a second or two. Add this to the vegetables and mix well.
Transfer to a serving bowl. Enjoy with your loved ones!

Variation - French cut beans - I think this is already pretty popular. I remember eating this at a potluck. I also occasionally make this exact same recipe with carrots. In my case, Lil Miss Bubbly has no issue eating carrots, or for that matter, her dad - okra. Okra and carrots get snatched from my cutting board and I'll be lucky if they make it to the stove.

Carrots- yes. Okra?
The slimy fryable delectable sambar-makable okra? To be eaten raw?