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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Vegan Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles are cookies made with flour, butter and sugar, using cream of tartar and baking soda as the leavening agents. They belong to Europe though no one is sure about their origin. Some believe the cookies came from Germany, or is Dutch in origin, or perhaps got its start in New England. Sometimes they are referred to as sugar cookies. While traditional cookies are rolled in white sugar, snickerdoodles are rolled in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. They have a distinct cracked surface and can be baked either soft or crispy depending upon the preference. I baked them somewhat in middle. (Source: Google)
Absence of cream of tartar in a snickerdoodle recipe is probably a sin from a true connoisseur's point of view. However I was looking for a recipe where I can get away without using cream of tartar, which happens to be a byproduct of wine making. I found out that baking powder can replace both cream of tartar and baking soda in the recipe. And while looking for such recipes, I came across this vegan version where I didn't have to look for egg substitutes as well. The recipe is quite an easy one yielding really tasty cookies and I was surprised to note the negative feedback the recipe has received.
Ingredients: Yield a dozen cookies
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
2 tbsp. corn starch
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 stick or 1/4 cup or 2 oz. vegan margarine, softened (or butter for a non-vegan version)
6 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. soy or any nondairy milk (or milk for a non-vegan version)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
For cinnamon sugar:
3 tbsp. sugar (I used icing sugar.)
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon

* Combine flour, cornstarch and baking powder in a small mixing bowl.
* Beat margarine / butter in another big bowl with electric mixer until soft. Add sugar and continue beating until fluffy. Stir in soy milk and vanilla extract and beat for another 30 seconds or until smooth. Add flour mixture, and beat 30 seconds or until smooth.
* To make cinnamon sugar, combine sugar and cinnamon in a plate.
* Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
* Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll each ball in cinnamon sugar. Place balls 1½ inches apart on prepared baking sheet. 
I first baked a batch without flattening them and they remained puffy. The second batch I flattened them slightly using a fork.
 * Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until cookies look dry on tops and are lightly browned on bottoms. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Store in airtight container.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


Ghiveci ~ pronounced as "gi-wetch" is primarily a rustic Romanian stew made with a medley of vegetables and so a preferred dish there during the period of Lent. It is on the similar lines of the French ratatouille though they taste different. Ghiveci can be made non vegetarian too by throwing in some chicken / meat. This dish is quite easy to prepare and very forgiving. It is slowly cooked in a pot by adding vegetables one after another keeping the cooking times of the different vegetables in mind. Whatever seasonal vegetables you have on hand can go into it. Onion, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplants, zucchini and peas are the most commonly used vegetables in this mildly spiced dish. I saw a video where a Romanian woman cooked the dish just with onion, tomatoes, bell pepper, parsley and cooked rice with no spices at all.
In Romania, it is usually served with rice or mamaliga , a porridge made of yellow maize flour. It can be eaten along with bread / couscous too. Instead of eating ghiveci with cooked rice, rice can be added directly to the vegetable medley during the cooking to make it a one pot meal. Either washed and drained rice can be thrown in between the cooking process so that rice gets cooked along with the veggies or some cooked rice can be added to the dish directly at the final stages so that rice absorbs the flavors better. The final dish should look like a thick sambhar rice.
It seemed kind of a hotchpotch dish and was sure that this is not going to be my kind and tried it just for my husband and son. However surprisingly I liked it taking into account that it was not heavily spiced and I could finish off a bowl without complaining as an accompaniment to my rotis. Though true Romanians may wrinkle their noses at me for that latter part of my statement.
Recipe source: Here
Servings: 3 to 4
1-2 tbsp oil (I used canola oil.)
1 onion, chopped
2 small carrots, peeled and sliced
1 small bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup of peeled and cubed kohlrabi (optional)
1 garlic clove, finely minced
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup water
2 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
A handful of frozen peas
1 eggplant, cubed (optional)
Salt to taste
1/2 to 1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp thyme (I didn't use.)
Freshly cracked pepper to taste
2 tbsp finely minced parsley
1 tsp lemon juice

* Heat the oil in a large stewpot and add the chopped onion, carrots, and peppers. Sauté until onion turns translucent.
* Next add garlic, potatoes, cabbage and kohlrabi if using and stir. Saute for about 3 -4 minutes.
* Then add tomatoes, salt, pepper, paprika, thyme and water and bring the mixture to a boil.
* Cover and simmer until the potatoes turn almost tender.
* Now add eggplants, cover and simmer.
* Simmer for another 15 - 20 minutes so that flavors mingle and the vegetables turn soft.
* Add frozen peas, fresh herbs, and lemon juice. Cook for another five minutes and serve warm.

This is my post under "European Cuisine" theme for BM#36. Check here to know what other marathoners are cooking. 


Friday, January 24, 2014

Scottish OatCakes

For centuries, oatcakes have been considered as Scotland's national bread. For the uninitiated, these oatcakes are not really cakes but kind of flat biscuits that originated in Scotland. Oats were one of the few grains that grew well in Scotland and was the staple grain there until the 20th century. And so obviously, oats formed the mainstay of many traditional Scottish dishes and these yummy oatcakes are one of them. In fact, Scottish soldiers in the 14th century used to carry a metal plate and a sack of oatmeal. They would heat the plate over fire, moisten a bit of oatmeal and make a cake.
As the name suggests, they are made from oatmeal and sometimes with the addition of flour as well. They make a delicious snack or breakfast and are quite easy to make. Usually they are cooked either on a griddle or baked in an oven. The recipe varies regionally and also the texture of these oatcakes depends upon how the oats are ground and how long they are cooked. Oatcakes were traditionally eaten with every meal but from the 19th century onwards they were commonly served to accompany soups, meat and fish dishes. They can be eaten plain or with jam or serve them with cheese and fruit. (Source:wiki)
This fuss free recipe caught my attention because of the authenticity of the recipe since the blogger happens to have a Scottish background. I must admit that I had zero expectations about these oatcakes as I was trying them for blogging purpose. After trying these, I am however completely sold because of the texture and taste of these oatcakes. I am really glad that I stumbled upon this recipe since I got to enjoy these traditional Scottish oatcakes.  Finely ground oats give these oatcakes, a thinner and crispier texture and I devoured them, slathered with some sugar-free strawberry jam.   

Ingredients: (Yield 9 - 10 cookies of 3 inch diameter)
1 cup medium oatmeal (the original recipe used old fashioned oats but I had only quick cooking oats and I processed it to a fine meal.)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp. / 3 oz melted butter or fat of your choice (Traditionally bacon drippings are used.)
Hot water as needed (I had to add 3 tbsp. water)
* Combine oatmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add the melted butter and mix well. The mixture now resembles bread crumbs.
* Then slowly add enough water to make a stiff dough. Transfer the dough to the work surface and knead thoroughly. The dough would be non sticky and 'easy to roll' kind. 
 * Preheat the oven to 300 degree F / 150 degree C.
* Sprinkle some oat meal / flour on the work surface and roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness.
* Using a cookie cutter, cut into circles or triangles to get uniform cakes.  
 * Gather the bits left after shaping the rolled out dough into circles, roll again and repeat the steps. If you get cracks, while rolling just pinch it with fingers.
* Transfer them onto a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. 
 * They can be eaten warm or can be stored in an airtight container to enjoy later.  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Vegan Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

The first thing we do when planning a long train / bus journey in India is to book tickets as it is hard to get reservations at the last moment if you don't plan ahead. Here in US, it is complete opposite. Though the fares are drastically cheaper and tickets would be readily available, long bus / train journeys are practically zero occurrence for us. While exploring these options, we have noticed that sometimes one might need to take a very, very long route than required, ending up spending more time than needed in travel. If it is a 1000 mile round trip and it is summer, we prefer our minivan to travel and if the distance is more, we just fly. I prefer to travel in our own vehicle than a flight because of the convenience and more luggage space. Besides, we get to visit and explore whatever catches our fancy along the route. And I can stuff as much as food as I like. :)
Though I don't sit and make rotis for our travel here, I use ready made puliyogare mix or prepare tamarind gojju in advance so that we have one substantial meal during the travel. Besides savory stuff, I bake a subtly sweet bread and a couple of variety of cookies for my kids. These chocolate crinkle cookies inspired from here is one such variety of cookies that are good for travel and especially for kids like my daughter who loves chocolate. They are easy, "no fuss" cookies, taste good with an appealing crinkled look. The only catch is the dough needs to be chilled for at least 6 hours. If you are interested, here are lime crinkled cookies that taste fabulous as well. 

Ingredients: (Yields 1 & 1/2 dozen cookies)
1/2 cup + 4 tsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 tbsp. flax meal powder
3 tbsp water
7 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. vegetable oil (I used canola oil)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Powdered sugar / Icing sugar for coating

Preparing cookie dough:
* Mix flax meal and 3 tbsp. of warm water in a small bowl and keep aside for about 5 minutes.
* Mix flour, salt and baking powder in a mixing bowl and keep it aside.
* Beat oil and sugar in another large mixing bowl. Then add cocoa and beat just until combined.
* Next add flax meal mixture and vanilla to the sugar mixture and beat once again.
* Add the flour mixture gradually to the cocoa mixture, beating well. If the dough becomes thick and if you are not able to beat at this stage, work with hands until the dough is formed. It would be slightly sticky.
* Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least 6 hours. I refrigerated it overnight, for about 10 hours.
The Baking Part:
* When ready to bake, preheat the oven at 350 deg F / 175 deg C for 10 minutes. Grease the baking sheet or line it with parchment paper.
* Take the dough out of the refrigerator and shape it into 1/2 tbsp. sized balls and roll them in icing sugar.
 * Arrange them on the prepared baking sheet, 2 inches apart.
* Bake for about 10 to 13 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched lightly. Don't be tempted to bake longer.
* Let them cool slightly and transfer them to a wire rack and cool completely. Store them in airtight container.

This is my post under "Travel Dishes" theme for BM#36. Check here to know what other marathoners are cooking. 


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Oats Thepla

This week's blogging marathon theme of travel food is making me all nostalgic thinking about the long, memorable trips I have had with my family while back in India. During my childhood days, long trips translated to train journeys, as in case of most of the middle class Indian families of that period. And we kids sure used to enjoy them.
During this summer when we visited India, we wanted our kids too experience one of those exciting long train trips that I and my husband used to enjoy and look forward to during our childhoods. We booked one way train tickets to Delhi from Bangalore and little did we know that how memorable our daughter was going to make that trip for us, adults. The two days she was on train, she refused to either get up from her berth or touch food for no apparent reason. She had developed gastritis by the time we got down from the train and ended up throwing up on herself. Exciting, phew! It was funny though when later on she told everyone that she liked her train trip and would like to take another one during her next visit. 
Coming to food, rotis, pulihora (tamarind rice) and savory snacks always feature(d) on our train trips. Gujarati theplas are one such category of rotis that are suitable for travel and doesn't need a side dish other than some pickle, making it more suitable and convenient to carry. I came across this oats version theplas on an oats packet in my mother's kitchen and had noted this down to try later. They were soft and yummy as expected and I had served them with moong subzi. 
Ingredients: (Yield 8 theplas)
1 cup atta / wheat flour
1/2 cup ground oats
3 tbsp. besan / garbanzo flour
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
1 green chili, finely minced
1/2 cup finely chopped methi / fresh fenugreek leaves
2-3 tbsp. yogurt
1 tbsp. oil
Warm water to knead the dough
Oil to make theplas

* Combine the flours, salt and turmeric in a bowl. Add chili, methi, oil and yogurt to the flour mixture and mix well. Next add water as needed to form a soft dough. Allow it to rest for about 30 - 45 minutes.
* Divide the dough into 8 equal portions and shape them into balls.  
* Take a dough ball and roll into a thin circle of about 5 inches diameter. Use wheat flour for dusting if needed.
* Keep the rest of the dough balls covered while rolling out a ball.
* Heat a tava / griddle and cook each dough circle, using a little oil, till it golden brown flecks are noticed on both sides.

* Usually theplas are served with chunda or sweet mango pickle and yogurt.  

Friday, January 17, 2014

Kara Sev

Like the rest of the mortals around me, the first thing I get stressed about think about when we are planning trips involving long car / train journeys is food. While I am making a list of things we need to carry, I would be simultaneously making a mental list of food items that my family would enjoy on the trip. And of course the savory south Indian snacks like chakli, nippattu and kodbale, top that list, by default. 
I usually try to pack one or two savory snacks besides home baked savory/sweet breads and cookies, especially when I know that we are going to be confined to our vehicle for long hours with kids during our vacations. When one is particularly driving long distances, all those pit stops for food and other necessities cost time and one less stop for food is time saved. :)
A savory snack under this category happens to be kara sev. It was one of the challenges for a previous Indian cooking challenge. My mother was visiting me at that time and we ended up making vampoosa instead, reminiscing about my grandma. And so I thought of updating my blog with a kara sev recipe today and here it is.
2.5 cups besan / chickpea flour
1 cup rice flour
1/8 tsp turmeric powder (optional)
2 tsp chili powder (Reduce if mild sev is preferred.)
1 Tbsp ghee
Salt to taste
4 - 6 cups of oil to fry (In India, usually peanut oil is used to fry and I have used canola.)
Special utensils needed:
Chakli mould / press with the big holes disc
A kadai (Indian wok) to fry the chaklis in
A big slotted spoon to remove the chaklis

Preparing the dough:
Sieve the flours and combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add water and make thick dough. (Almost same as or a little softer than roti dough. I used a little more than a cup of water and the cup used is the same one that has been used for dry ingredients. I am mentioning the quantity to just give an idea and use your discretion. Have to figure out how much depending upon the dough consistency.)

Frying part:
* Heat the oil in a kadai. To test whether the oil is hot enough to fry, slowly slide a pinch of dough into the oil. If it sizzles and comes to surface, then the oil is ready. If not, heat the oil a little longer.
* Take a small portion of the dough and fill in the chakli press. Mean while, keep the remaining dough covered. Using your hands, press the mould over the hot oil making circling motion so that coils of dough from the mold dropping into the oil make a circle shape. You can press as big circle as the circumference of the kadai.
If you are not comfortable directly pressing the dough into the hot oil, you can make the dough circles using the press on the back side of a greased slotted spoon and gently drop it into the hot oil.
* Fry on low-medium flame until they turn golden brown.
* Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towel covered plate.
* Repeat the process with the remaining dough.
* Cool them and store in an airtight container.

I usually break the chaklis before storing because we make kadai/pan sized ones. It is convenient to eat the small strings than the super sized chaklis.

 This is my post under "Travel Dishes" theme for BM#36. Check here to know what other marathoners are cooking. 


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Quinoa Sweet Pongal

Happy Sankranthi to all in advance.
Savory and sweet pongals are commonly prepared in south Indian kitchens on the occasion of Sankranthi / Pongal. Both the dishes are prepared using rice and moong dal, usually in a ratio of 2:1. I prepared a sweet version using quinoa today. However for a traditional version, replace quinoa with rice and proceed as directed. Poha, cracked wheat, rava, oats, barley or millet can also replace quinoa for other interesting variations of this dish.
Ingredients: (2 servings)
1/4 cup quinoa
2 tbsp. moong dal
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup milk
6 - 8 tbsp. powdered jaggery
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
A pinch of edible camphor
1 - 2 tbsp. ghee
1 tsp cashews
1 tsp raisins
1. Dry toast moong dal in a small saute pan until you start to notice the aroma.
2. Wash quinoa with water twice and drain.
3. Add quinoa, moong dal and water to a pressure cooker and cook until soft. Alternatively they can be cooked in a sauce pan, adding water as needed.
4. Remove the cooked quinoa-moong mixture and mash it with the back of a ladle to turn it into a mushy mixture.
5. Add the cooked mixture and milk to a sauce pan, preferably a non stick one and bring it to a boil. Then add the powdered jaggery and cook until it incorporates into the mixture. Continue to cook for 3 -4  minutes. Finally add cardamom powder and edible camphor to the cooked pongal, give it a stir and turn off the stove.
6. In a small pan, toast cashews and raisins in ghee and add it to the pongal, mix and serve. 
1. Usually I buy jaggery only if it is clean and so I add it directly to dishes without any problems. If you notice that the jaggery that is going to be used has any impurities, add it to plain water / boiling water and let the jaggery melt. Filter it and then use it in the recipe as needed.
2. Pongal thickens after cooling and so if the mixture appears thick while cooking, add some more milk.
3. Don't skip the edible camphor if you have access to it. It gives that divine, characteristic aroma to a sweet pongal dish.

If you are looking for other sweet pongal ideas, here are some from my kitchen.

 This goes to the following events.
1. BM#36 under the theme "Pongal Dishes"
2. Srivalli's "Kids' Delight" event, hosted by Sandhya this month, with the theme "Cooking with Whole Grains"


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Oats Pongal & Some Savory Pongal Ideas

On a sankranthi day, a traditional savory / sweet pongal is prepared using rice and moong dal, to celebrate the harvest crop . However owing to our variety craving taste buds and for health reasons, rice is being replaced with other grains and a variety of pongals are prepared now in Indian kitchens. This oats pongal is one such healthy, tasty and filling preparation that can be prepared in less time.

Ingredients: (2 servings)
1/4 cup moongdal
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup milk (fatfree will do.)
1 or 2 tbsp. ghee
1/2 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp cashews
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp peppercorns, slightly crushed
A pinch of asafoetida (optional)
a pinch of turmeric powder
Salt to taste

* Dry toast moong dal until it starts to turn reddish and keep it aside.
* Dry toast oats on medium flame for a couple of minutes and remove from heat.
* Cook moongdal until soft adding 1/2 cup of water in a pressure cooker or in a sauce pan adding water as needed.
* Heat ghee and toast cashews to golden brown. Remove them with a slotted spoon and keep them aside.
* To the same ghee, add ginger. When it starts to turn reddish, add cumin seeds and pepper. Toast for few seconds and then add a cup of water and a cup of milk. Or you can replace milk also with water.
* When the water comes to a boil, add cooked moong dal, oats and salt. Cook until oats are done and add toasted cashews. Mix well and serve with chutney / sambhar.

Some other savory pongal ideas posted earlier here. Click on the links below for recipes.

This is my post under "Pongal Dishes" theme for BM#36. Check here to know what other marathoners are cooking. 


Friday, January 10, 2014


Keeping the oncoming Sankranthi festival in mind, I thought of posting some recipes related to it this week. Andhra pulagam is going to be the first one in the series. The pulagam is a toned down version of the exuberant and rich pongal. It is mostly prepared dry and in traditional Andhra Brahmin kitchens like my grandmothers', pulagam used to be kept very simple and basic. Rice and moong were cooked and only salt was added. No additional flavors / garnishes were added as we do in the case of pongal(I) and was served with chintapandu pachadi (tamarind chutney).  
In spite of it's simplicity, pulagam when properly prepared turns out delicious, even without all the ghee soaked garnishing or spicy flavors. Pulagam usually is not prepared mushy and each grain in the dish stands out separately. Each graI have just added toasted cumin seeds in the following version. One can add crushed pepper and a ghee tadka too just like in pongal preparation. Pulagam tastes yummy with just a chatpata pickle like a mango / lime one but can be served with chutney / sambhar too. 
Ingredients: (yield 2 servings)
1/2 cup rice (I used sona masuri variety.)
A fistful of moong dal
1 tbsp. ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds
Salt to taste

* Dry toast moong dal until it starts changing it's color. This step is however optional.
* Heat ghee in a small pan and add cumin seeds. When they start to turn a shade darker, remove from heat.
* Wash rice (and also moong if preferred) with two exchanges of water and drain. Add 1 & 1/4 cups of water to rice-moong mixture along with the ghee toasted cumin seeds.
* Pressure cook for 3 whistles.
* Wait till the valve pressure is gone and remove the lid. Add salt, mix well and serve warm.

This is my post under "Pongal Dishes" theme for BM#36. Check here to know what other marathoners are cooking. 


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Chettinad Cuisine ~ Vellai Paniyaram & Milagai Chutney

This traditional combo dish was an interesting discovery for me during this marathon. I saw them under the list of combo dishes we could try for this month's marathon and straight away got confused these paniyarams with the jaggery version. I kept wondering why there was a spicy chutney to go with the sweet paniyarams and so thought of even asking Valli about them. However I checked online before embarrassing myself and they turn out to be a specialty of Cheettinad cuisine. In fact, they are so popular in the region that they are almost mandatory in all celebrations there, however big or small.
I had so far never come across this dish in my real / virtual worlds and so had no idea what a perfectly done end product should like / taste like. And the recipes I saw online kept mentioning that it was a tricky dish to master and so I had very little inclination towards this choice initially. After a little contemplation, I went ahead thinking that if my dish turns into a disaster, I still can use the remaining batter to make dosas without any regrets. I guess I have met with success to an extent and they tasted like fried, soft dosas / poories. And hopefully I achieved the expected curvy border too to an extent. Experts can correct me if I am wrong and share some helpful tips. :)
I noticed that how the ingredients measured traditionally for paniyaram preparation is also interesting. A cup is filled with rice and then leveled off  (use a knife if preferred or can be done with fingers). Then urad dal is heaped over rice, as much as the cup can hold. Most of the recipes mentioned urad dal and rice proportions to 1:4 but the traditional method uses a little less urad dal. 
Ingredients for paniyaram:
1 cup rice (I used extra long grain rice)
3 tbsp. urad dal 
Salt to taste
Oil to fry
* Wash rice and urad dal in two exchanges of water and soak for at least 3 hours. Drain and grind the ingredients adding water as needed, to form a batter like of dosa consistency. Transfer the batter to a bowl and add salt to it. Mix well and set aside. If your batter is too thick, add a tbsp. or two of milk to dilute it.
* Heat oil in a wide sauce pan. The heat should be medium and the oil should not be very hot as it happens when frying Indian savories. The oil should be medium hot through out the process.
* Pour a small ladleful of batter into the oil.
* Now immediately take the spatula (that you are going to use to fry the paniyarams), dip into the hot oil and start pouring the oil along the edges of the dough circle you formed. You start noticing the curves forming along the border.
* Then gently fry the paniyaram and it bloats up like a puri.
* When it is cooked, flip it and fry for few more seconds. Remove and transfer on to absorbent towels. No need to fry until golden brown. They should remain white.
* Repeat the steps with the remaining batter.
Traditionally these paniyarams are served with spicy milagai chutney. This chutney is almost similar to Rayalaseema's erra karam.  
2 onions
1 plum tomato
2 red chillies (Instead I added 4 Byadagi chillies for color.)
Salt to taste
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
Few curry leaves  
* Peel and chop the onions into big chunks. Cut tomatoes into big chunks.
* Blend together onions, tomatoes, salt and red chillies in a food processor to a paste.
* Heat oil and add mustard seeds and curry leaves. When mustard seeds start to splutter, add the onion paste. Saute until the raw smell of the onion disappears. Turn off the stove and transfer to a bowl.
* This can be served with paniyarams / idlis / dosas.

This is my post under "Combo Dishes" theme for BM#36. Check here to know what other marathoners are cooking.