Monday, January 28, 2013

Chocolate Truffle Cake

With a house full of chocolate lovers how can I make anything but chocolate cake for my son's birthday!
My son found this lovely cake recipe online and wanted it for his 13th birthday today. This is a tender, luxurious layer cake with ganache glaze and decadent bittersweet filling. I was in heaven when I took the first bite!

2-1/2 Cups milk
1 Cup butter, cubed
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-2/3 Cups all-purpose flour
2 Cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

6 Tablespoons butter, cubed
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2-1/2 Cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 Cup heavy whipping cream

10 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2/3 Cup heavy whipping cream

1. In a large saucepan, cook milk, butter and chocolate over low heat until melted.  Remove from heat; let stand for 10 minutes
2. In a large bowl, beat eggs and vanilla; stir in chocolate mixture until smooth. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into the mixture ( batter will be thin). Transfer to three greased and floured 9-inch round baking pans.  Bake at 325 F for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
3. For filling, in a small saucepan, melt butter and chocolate.  Stir in confectioners' sugar and cream until smooth.
4. For ganache, place chocolate in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream just to a boil. Pour over chocolate; whisk until smooth.  Cool, stirring occasionally, until ganache reaches a spreading consistency.
5. Set aside 1/2 cup filling for garnish.  Place one cake layer on a serving plate; spread with half of the remaining filling. Repeat another layer. Top with remaining cake layer.  Spread ganache over top and sides of cake. Decorate with reserved filling.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ma Po Tofu

Szechuan province in China is known for its spicy food. People there use prickly ash in their dishes. Prickly ash looks like pepper corn covered in a pink covering. It numbs your taste buds when bitten which helps mask the spice in the food. It is known as triphala in India.
When I visited my sister in California, she made a tofu dish in a spicy sauce, called Ma Po Tofu. It tasted very good. Yesterday I made this dish to go with Szechuan Rice. It was so spicy I thought my kids may not be able to handle it. To my amazement my daughter loved it. My son had it with sour cream.

1 Package (14 ounces) firm tofu, drained
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 vegetable broth, divided
2 Tablespoons black bean sauce
1 Tablespoon chili sauce
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 Tblespoons sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 Cup fresh green onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon prickly ash, dry roasted and broken (pound in a mortar)

1. Drain tofu. Place between layers of paper towels. Place a cutting board and heavy cans on top for 15 minutes.
2. Cut tofu into 3/4-inch squares. Place in a shallow dish; sprinkle with soy sauce and ginger.
3. Stir together 1/4 cup broth, black bean sauce, chili sauceand cornstarch in small bowl; set aside.
4. Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Add garlic; cook for a minute. Ad remaining 3/4 cup broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simer 3 minutes.
5. Stir sauce mixture and add to wok. Cook and stir 1 minute or until sauce boils and thickens. Stir in tofu an simmer, uncovere, until heated through. Mix in prickly ash. Sprinle with green onion. Serve with cooked rice.

You can add bite-size pieces of 1 green bell pepper and 1 1/2 cups broccoli florets before adding sauce mixture.

Szechuan Rice

Everyone has a special something that they are good at making. My sister is good at making different kinds of rice. Whenever she visits us she makes one variety at least. Yesterday, before leaving for Canada she made this awesome Szechuan Rice. In the process of cooking, I realized that I was out of  soy sauce. Fortunately, I was able to borrow it from my neighbor. It turned out to be a treat. I also made Mapo Tofu with it.

1 Cup Basmati rice, cooked and cooled
1 Tablespoon + 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2- inch ginger, chopped
3 green chili, slit(optional)
1 onion, chopped
3-4 large mushroom, cleaned and chopped
1 carrot, diced
3-4 baby corn, diced
2 Tablespoons green peas
2 Tablespoons Chinese red chili sauce(adjust to taste)
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
salt to taste
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Heat 1tablespoon oil in a wok over medium heat. Quickly saute minced garlic, and remove from oil. Add ginger and garlic. Saute for a minute; add onion and chili. Cook for 3 minutes. Add mushroom and saute for 2 minutes before adding carrots, peas and corn. Stir in soy sauce, chili sauce and salt. Add cooled rice and mix well. Mix in 1 tablespoon oil or chili oil.  Serve hot.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Hot idly and Kadappa on a cold night.. aww.. not to be missed! I've never made kadappa before. It is one of my sister's specialties. Today, I learned to make it from her( she made it and I watched ). It was an awesome combination. Even my kids enjoyed it. It tastes like kurma, only this is made with mung dal.

1 Cup mung dal
2-3 green chili pepper, slit
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 Cup diced carrots
1 medium potato, diced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 Tablespoon oil
1 inch cinammon
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 curry leaves
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 small tomato, chopped
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
salt to taste
To grind to paste:
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 cloves garlic
2-3 green chili(optional)
2 Tablespoons grated fresh coconut

1. Pressure cook mung dal, chili, garlic, carrots and potato with turmeric with a lot of water.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add cinammon, fennel and curry leaves to splutter. Add Onion and cook for 4 minutes. Add tomato, turmeric and salt; cook for 5 minutes.
3. Remove cooked dal from the pressure cooker and stir into the saucepan. Add ground paste to it. Stir well, adding water to make it to sambar consistency( stew consistency). Bring it to a boil. Remove from heat. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve hot with idly or dosa.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Vegetable Lasagna

Everytime my daughter wants something special, it always is Lasagna. She could live on it everyday! It is a wholesome meal with all the food groups. I always make it with lots of vegetables.

12 ready to cook lasagna noodles (1 package)
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium bell pepper of any color, diced
1 Cup broccoli florets
3/4 Cup pesto
1 container marinara sauce
1 container (15 ounces) ricotta cheese
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 Cup chopped parsley
3 Tablespoons margarine or butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Cups milk
2 Cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 ounces)
1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 2 quart saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic for 3 minutes. Add carrots,bellpepper and broccoli, and cook for a few minutes. Stir in pesto and marinara sauce. Add salt to taste. Let the sauce cook till the vegetables are tender.
2. Mix ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, parsely, 1 chopped garlic, and pepper to taste.
3. Melt margarine in 2 quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook garlic in margarine about 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until garlic is tender. Stir in flour.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubble; remove from heat. Stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute.
4. Heat oven to 350 F.
5. Place 3 noodles in ungreased rectangular pan, 13x9x2 inches.  Spread half of the cheese mixture over noodles.  Top with 3 noodles; spread with half of the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese. Top with 3 noodles; spread with remaining vegetable mixture. Pour sauce evenly over the top.  Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese.
6. Bake uncovered 35 to 40 minutes or until hot in center. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

German Chocolate Cake

My sister's birthday is tomorrow! My son and my sister have their birthdays in the same week. It seems almost everyone has their birthdays in January! When my sister visits me, she gets to choose the cake she wants. This year she wanted German Chocolate Cake. I went to the good old Betty Crocker book for the recipe. It was a bitter cold day, and some cake would definitely help the house get warmer. Fortunately I had all the ingredients at home. I hope she likes the cake!

4 ounces sweet cooking chocolate
1/2 Cup water
2 Cups sugar
1 Cup stick margarine or butter, softened
4 large eggs
2 1/4 Cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Cup buttermilk
Coconut -Pecan Frosting

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Grease bottom and sides of 3 round pans, 8x1 1/2 or 9x1 1/2 inches. Grease the pans and line the bottoms of the pans with waxed paper.
2. Heat chocolate and water in 1-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring until chocolate is melted; cool.
3. Beat sugar and margarine in medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in chocolate and vanilla on low speed. Add remaining ingredients except frosting. Beat on low speed just until blended. Pour into pans.
4. Bake 8-inch rounds 35 to 40 minutes, 9-inch rounds  30 to 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to  wire rack. Remove waxed paper. Cool completely.
5. Meanwhile make Coconut-Pecan Frosting, leaving side of cake unfrosted.

Coconut-Pecan Frosting
1 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup stick margarine or butter
1 Cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large egg yolks
1 1/3 Cups flaked coconut
1 Cup chopped pecans

1. Mix sugar, margarine, milk, vanilla and egg yolks in 2-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick.
2. Stir in coconut and pecans. Cool about 30 minutes, beating occasionally, until spreadable.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Soybean Subji a la Slow Cooker

Soybeans are rich in protein. They are known as meat without bone. Yesterday I made subji using dried soybeans. I forgot to soak the beans overnight. So, I just soaked them in a hot pack container for an hour and cooked the beans in crock pot. In about 6 hours the subji was done and it tasted yummy. We had it with aaloo parntha.

1 Cup dried soy beans, soaked for an hour in a thermos (use hot water)
1 of each cinnamon stick, clove, and black cardamom
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 inch ginger, minced
2 green chili, slit
1 Onion, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
1 teaspoon goda masala
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
salt to taste

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a pan to medium heat. Add cinnamon, clove and cardamom. Add ginger, garlic, and chili. Give it a quick stir. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes; add tomato and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in cumin-coriander powder, goda masala, chili powder and salt. Stir in soybeans.
2. Pour the bean mixture into slow cooker. Pour enough water and set it on high for 5 hours or until soybean is soft. Serve hot with roti or paratha.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Vathal Kuzhambu

There would be very few South Indians(esp. Tamils) who do not like Vathal Kuzhambu. It is my all time favorite. My kids love it any time. They would always ask me to give curd rice in their hand with a spoon of kuzhambu in it. My mom used to make us kids sit in a circle on the floor, and feed us all by hand. She would also tell us stories. We would never know how much we ate. Those were the days. Some of my friends might remember it.  Yesterday I made sundakai vatal kuzhambu with red pohi with toor dal. It was amazing! :)

lemon size tamarind, soaked in 2 Cups water
2 Tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
little methi seeds
1/4 teaspoon channa dal and toor dal
2 dried red chili, broken
1 Tablespoon vathal ( sundakai or manathakkali)
2-3 teaspoon sambar powder
salt to taste
curry leaves

1. Heat oil in a saucepan on medium heat. Add the next 4 ingredients; when mustard seeds splutter, add vathal and saute for a minute. Add asafoetida and sambar powder and stir for a few seconds.
2. Extract tamarind juice and discard tamarind. Stir in the tamarind water to the saucepan.  Add salt and curry leaves. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer till kuzhambu thickens and tamarind smell leaves. Remove from heat. Serve with plain rice. It could also be eaten with dal rice(parripu sadham) and curd rice.

1. Vathal is dried berries. They can be salted or unsalted. Vathal can be made from okra, beans, bitter squash (karela), manathakkali or sundakai.
2. Typical accompaniment for vathal kuzhambu is parripu thuvayal.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Stuffed Bell peppers

Bell pepper is a wonderful vegetable that can be used in a number of dishes. I bought sweet yellow bell peppers last week in my local farmer's market. I made a one dish dinner yesterday with these puppies. I made stuffed bell peppers and roasted butternut squash soup. The whole family enjoyed this warm meal on a rainy night.

3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 Cup chopped mushroom
1/2 Cup black beans, drained
1 Tablespoon sliced black olives
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
1 Cup rice(not Basmati)
2 Tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon tomato paste dissolved in 3 Cups hot water
6 red, green, yellow, or orange bell peppers

1. Wash and soak rice.
2. Heat oil in a shallow, heavy-bottom pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic; cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add mushroom, cook for 2 minutes. Add black olives, black beans, chili powder, cumin-coriander powder, and salt. Stir for a minute. Add tomato paste mixed in water, and bring to a boil.
3. Drain rice and add it to the pan. Add half of parsley, stir and cover with a lid. Reduce the heat and let rice cook for20 minutes,or until rice is tender, and the liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle more water if required.  Stir in the remaining parsley. Set aside and let cool slightly.
4. Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut the top of each bell pepper and set aside. Remove and discard the core and seed from each pepper.
5. Lightly spray a baking dish. Rub or spray the peppers with oil, arrange them in a single layer in the dish. Divide the stuffing equally between the bell peppers. Use wooden tooth-picks to secure the tops back in place.
6. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the bell peppers are tender. Serve hot.

1. I like to use black rice or mix wild rice with short-grain rice.
2. I add chopped Jalapeno peppers to the rice for flavor.
3. My kids like to add shredded cheese to the rice and also like to eat it with sour cream.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Chocolate Truffles

There are 2 chocolate lovers in the family,one being moi. This holiday season I wanted to try something new. I thought truffles would be difficult to make. I looked through Betty Crocker book, found a recipe and decided to make it. I gathered all the ingredients and found that I did not have liqueur and whipping cream. I went to the store at 8:30 PM and started the process at 9:30 PM. I finished making the truffles at midnight. But, it was worth it. I boxed the truffles as holiday gifts for my friends.  I was thrilled to hear that they were delicious.

1 package(12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips(2 Cups)
2 Tablespoons stick margarine or butter
1/4 Cup whipping (heavy) cream
2 Tablespoons liqueur ( almond, cherry, coffee, hazelnut, Irish cream, orange, etc.), if desired
1 Tablespoon shortening
Finely chopped nuts, if desired
1/4 cup powdered sugar, if desired
1/2 teaspoon milk, if desired

1. Like cookie sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Melt 1 cup of chocolate chips in heavy 2-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly; remove from heat. Stir in margarine. Stir in whipping cream and liqueur. Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes; stirring frequently, just until thick enough to hold a shape.
3. Drop mixture by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Shape into balls. (If mixture is too sticky, refrigerate until firm enough to shape.) Freeze 30 minutes.
4. Heat shortening and remaining 1 cup chocolate chips over low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth; remove from heat. Dip truffles, one at a time, into chocolate. Return to aluminum foil-covered cookie sheet. Immediately sprinkle some of the truffles with finely chopped nuts. Dust some of the truffles with cocoa powder and some with powdered sugar. Refrigerate about 10 minutes or until coating is set.
5. Drizzle some of the truffles with a mixture of 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon milk.  Refrigerate just until set.  Serve at room temperature. Store truffles in airtight container.

1. Do not use vegetable oil spreads because they contain very little fat and there is water content too, which can affect the texture of the chocolate.
2. For the first batch I used margarine instead of shortening, and the chocolate sauce for dipping the truffles became thick. I had to coat them with hand, and some of the truffles were not smooth. So, for the second batch I used butter and added a little cream to the chocolate mixture and left the sauce on very low heat while dipping the truffles. The result was smooth and shiny truffles.