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SNOWY DAYS AND KHICHURI-ALOO PHULKOPI BHAJA !!!


Welcome to Winter Wonderland !!

Mother Nature has been overgenerous with us, in the Midwest, with her bounty of snow this year. Two blizzards in a span of four days. The patio has a few feet of snow which shoes no sign of melting away. The newspaper is either not getting delivered, or is getting buried under the fresh pile of snow accumulating very hour.



We are practically snowed in, although the snow ploughers are hard at work.


We are making the best use of our time indoors. Loads of indoor games, good movies on the telly and some neighborhood friends, who decided to walk through the snow. So we planned on a Khichuri potluck party.


Khichuri always brings back memories of rainy afternoons in India. Staying off from school, to enjoy an unexpected weekly day off, when it was pouring heavy. Khichuri from Ma's kitchen, with Begun Bhaja(Eggplant Fritters), Maachh Bhaja(Fried Fish). A dollop of ghee and even the grey rains seemed cheerful from the dining room window. Not to forget that anything from Ma's kitchen makes one warm and fuzzy, no matter how bad the weather is.

This time around, it was Khichuri from our friend Arka's kitchen. Loaded with peas and other veggies and also quite a few dollops of Ghee. He had dry roasted the Mugher Daal, till it changed color. The rice had been soaked in plain water for around half an hour.The ratio of Rice to the lentils was 1: 1. In a heavy bottomed pan, he had added some Mustard Oil, and let some whole Cumin (Jeera )seeds crackle along with some Green Chillies. Then he added the rice, daal, turmeric powder, Cumin Powder, Ginger Paste, salt and water and let it cook covered. He added in some random winter veggies lying around. Once the Khichuri was almost cooked, he added in some frozen peas, and finished off with some dollops of ghee.



Hubby cooked up some spicy Cauliflower and Potato Fritters , with a heady dose of Shukno Lanka ! Spicy crunchy and super nice. He added some Shukno Lanka(dried red chillies) to some Canola Oil. In the meantime, he had cut the cauliflower in small florets and diced the potatoes, to match the size of the florets. He mixed in some Paprika, salt with the veggies, and added them to the hot oil in batches. Somewhere between deep frying and shallow frying sealed the trick.

We had all run out of fresh fish. So Sayan improvised with some store bought breaded Halibut Fillets, which were fried to perfection.

We all decided on going with a little more ghee on each of our plates.

Pretty soon, everything was polished off, and then it was time for some playing in the snow !!!




Here's hoping all of you stay warm !!


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CILANTRO LEMON PASTA IN CREAMY ALFREDO SAUCE :

Pasta is my definition of easy dinner !
Prawns are my definition of easy cooking(if such a phrase exists) Proteins !
So more often than not these two find a place on our dinner plates, especially on weekdays.

Now that I have officially given calorie count a miss, I can indulge in cheesy goodness totally without guilt. Maybe the man, has to spend some extra hours at the gym for all this calorie overload, but he ain't complaining.So it was Cilantro Lemon Pasta in a creamy Alfredo Sauce !!



Some of my friends tell me, that why do I take the trouble of making Alfredo sauce, when I can just pour it out of a bottle. Yes, I can do that, but somehow, I find store bought Alfredo Sauce to be very clawing. So I try and whip up some, whenever I am in the mood. I am all for semi-homemade meals, only when the end result does not taste like cardboard.

I swear by heavy Cream and I am proud of it .

Sometime back, we had picked up a packet of Green Pasta ! The color caught Deb's eye, and when he read the ingredient list, he was all smiles. The Pasta was flavored with cilantro and lemon, and that's combination which is very pleasing to our desi taste buds. The recipe on the packet, asked for a sweet and tangy orange sauce, made with orange juice concentrate and and some slices of ham. Off late, Deli Meats(though super favorites) are off limits for me, courtesy the Doc. So I reached out for the Prawns in the freezer instead and settled for an almost basic Alfredo Sauce.

A colorful and tasty dinner plate, which made the weeknight not seem so mundane.


CILANTRO LEMON PASTA IN CREAMY ALFREDO SAUCE : 

Ingredients: 
Cilantro Lemon Pasta: 8 oz: You can cook with any kind of Pasta. Just bump up the lemon zest and cilantro proportions. 
Cilantro: A handful: Chopped finely
Lemon Zest: 1 tbsp
Heavy Cream: 1/2 cup
Prawns: 1 cup (Shelled and De-veined)
Olive Oil: 2 tbsp
Onion: 1/2 : Sliced finely
Garlic: 4 large cloves: Minced
Salt: to taste
Black Pepper: 1 tsp
Butter: 1 tbsp(more if you wanna OD like me)
Grated Parmesan Cheese: 2 tbsp:
Gouda:: 3-4 shavings or more

Procedure: 
In a large non stick pan, add in the olive oil, butter and the onions. Once the onion starts getting translucent, add in the minced garlic and fry for another minute or so.




Add in the prawns and the lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.


Cook the Pasta al dente(with a bite) according to package instructions, with some salt. Drain and keep aside. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.


 Fry the prawns , till they start turning pink.



Add in the cream and some more butter(the butter at this stage is optional.)Mix everytging well. Make sure that you have turned the heat to low.


Add in the cheeses and let it all bubble away. Make sure to stir in between.



Once the sauce starts thickening, do a  taste test and add in the pasta.


Toss everything together, add in the chopped cilantro. Add in some pasta water, if you feel that the sauce has thickened way too much.



Serve hot !!

Bon Appetit !!



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AEROSMITH : CONCERT DIARIES :

When you are in love with a musician, Concerts become an obvious part of your social calendar. After all these years of being together, and after attending so many Rock Acts, I thought it was about time, I started penning down, some sort of a concert diary ! We had even cancelled our Honeymoon plans to attend a concert by KISS  in Kansas City !!

Last year was no different. A few weeks before our anniversary, we went ahead to yet another concert. This time the Bad Boys of Boston were in town. AEROSMITH !!!   All roads in Kansas City seemed to lead to Sprint Center, to see the men in action !

It was a two hour concert where they just proved that one is never too old to rock. It seemed like 60s were the new 20s . Steven Tyler pranced around on the stage with such energy, which could give the youngsters a serious run for their money. Maybe his voice has taken a beating over the years, but he was every bit a super energetic frontman needs to be. The way he sashayed down the stage, made me forget that I had a bun in the oven and stand up and cheer !



Joe Perry was no different. Dressed to kill and driving the crowds crazy with his guitar licks !




The band mostly delivered their older hits and no one seemed to be in a mood to complain Jaded, Love in an Elevator had the crowd going berserk. They belted out only track from their current(15th) album, Music from Another Dimension. 






The final stretch had hot favorites like Dude(Looks Like a Lady), and Walk this Way !!  By the time the show ended, Tyler was topless, and we were covered in confetti !!



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BASKET WEAVE CAKE WITH FLOWERS:


V-Day is just around the corner. Are you thinking of clicking away to order that bunch of flowers for your sweetie-pie . Stop right now. I got a better idea. How about an entire edible floral arrangement No I am not playing with words here, I am just dropping my two cents on a V-Day cake. Give the red roses a miss, and reach out for the whole garden of sweet blooms on an even sweeter basket. A Basket Weave cake loaded with Spring blooms !!!

Bake a cake of your choice. Whatever flavor would best define you both. Let it cool down properly before you ice it with a thin layer of butter-cream icing. And then spin out some magic. A round cake would be a perfect choice to a make a basket ! I decided to go for my basic Chocolate Cake, as we both love love Chocolate. I know, its old school and super predictable, but then, one doesn't go wrong with chocolate.

Make a large batch of butter cream icing as the basket weave style of piping takes quite a lot. When you are frosting the cake with the first layer of frosting, make sure that its a thin layer,as the basket weave would be thick and dense.

BUTTER CREAM ICING :  
Makes about 2 1/2 cups


Ingredients: 
Solid White Vegetable Shortening: 1 cup
Vanilla, Almond or Butter Extract: 1 tsp
Milk or water: 7-8 tsp
Confectioner's Sugar/Icing Sugar: 1 lb/4 cups
Meringue Powder: 1 tbsp (avoid it for a vegetarian version)
Pinch of Salt


Procedure: 
Cream shortening, flavoring and water. Add dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until all ingredients have been thoroughly mixed together. Blend an additional minute or so, until creamy. Icing can be colored by using icing gel colors or even food colors. Add in colors with a toothpick, as a little goes a long way. Mix it well with a spatula, to get the color uniformly mixed.


BASKET WEAVE :
Smooth out the initial frosting on a cake, by using a parchment paper and your hands. Or you could also use an angled spatula over the parchment paper to smooth out any spatula lines. Make sure that the icing is set, before you start to smooth it out. I usually bake a day in advance and frost it, and let it cool in the refrigerator, before I start decorating.


Color your butter cream icing in the color you want your basket to be. I wanted it look like a wicker basket, so colored it with a few drops of brown food color and mixed well. Attach Wilton Tip 21, with a coupler to a disposable frosting bag, and fill it with the colored icing in medium consistency.

  • Divide your cake into an even number of sections either using the Cake dividing Wheel, or with the help of a normal measuring tape to guide you.
  • With steady pressure, pipe a vertical strip beginning at the top of the cake. 
  • Pipe a horizontal stripe at the bottom edge of the cake. 
  • Horizontal stripe should begin at the marking before the vertical stripe and end slightly past the marking following the vertical line. 
  • Mark a spacer dot above end of horizontal stripe. 
  • Pipe additional horizontal stripes and spacer dots working up the vertical stripe. 
  • Pipe a vertical stripe over the ends of the horizontal stripes. 
  • Start next set of horizontal stripes by burying tip under first vertical stripe. 
  • Use spacer dots between each horizontal strip to help keep basket weave even and straight. 
  • Repeat vertical stripes and spacer dots to achieve basket weave effect. 


You could also use Wilton Tip 47, Wilton Tip 48 to create different types of Basket Weave. In case all that I wrote about is confusing, you could take a look at this style of Basket Weave which I came across later on You Tube. It makes sense to first practice the Basket Weave on some Parchment paper, before starting off on the cake.



Decorate your basket with flowers made of Royal Icing ! The Flowers can be made a week in advance and then all put together on the final cake. Royal Icing dries hard in a day, so make sure that they are completely dry before you start putting them on the cake.

WILTON ROYAL ICING: 
Ingredients: 
Meringue Powder: 3 level tbsp
Confectioners Sugar: 1 lb/4 cups: Sifted
Luke Warm Water: 5-6 tbsp

Procedure: 
Place confectioners sugar and meringue powder in a bowl. Stir or mix at a low speed until well blended. Add water and mix 7-10 minutes at low-medium speed until icing loses its sheen. To prevent drying, be sure to cover the bowl with a damp cloth while working with icing. Store in an air tight container for up to two weeks. To re-use, beat on low to restore original texture.


Here's a set of picture cards to guide you through some of the flowers !!! Sorry, I am getting a bit lazy !

VIOLET : 



PRIMROSE: 



ROSEBUD: 



APPLE BLOSSOM: 


DAFFODIL: 




So go ahead and make something sweet for your sweetheart !!

Hoping all of you have a sweet V-DAY !!!

Bon Appetit !!!



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