31 July 2010

17: Chocolate Almond Cake

Good Morning!! Its that time of the week when I warm up my oven and find something amazing to bake... I decide on a chocolate almond cake today...just thinking of chocolate and almond flavor together got my taste buds excited! Looking around for recipes I came across Julia Child's recipe for this cake...which was just perfect.. who better to learn from than from the maestro...

Lets start with the ingredients:

For the cake,

4 ounces or 4 squares semisweet chocolate
2 Tbsp. coffee
1/4 pound or 1 stick softened unsalted butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
Pinch of salt

7 ounces Odense almond paste
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour

For the chocolate-butter icing,
2 ounces (2 squares) semisweet baking chocolate
2 Tbsp. coffee
5 to 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat water in a large pan and then set the chocolate and coffee in a small pan, cover, and place (off heat) in the larger pan of almost simmering water. Let the mix melt. Whisk the butter and 2/3 cup of sugar together for several minutes until they form a pale yellow, fluffy mixture. Beat in the three egg yolks until well blended.

Beat the egg whites and salt in a separate bowl, sprinkle 1 Tbsp. sugar and beat well for 2-3 minutes. 

Blend the molten chocolate into the butter and sugar mixture, then stir in the almond paste, and almond extract. Immediately stir in one fourth of the beaten egg whites to lighten the batter. Delicately fold in a third of the remaining whites and when partially blended, sift on one third of the flour and continue folding. Alternate rapidly with more egg whites and more flour until all egg whites and flour are completely mixed. It takes a little effort but make sure the batter is well beaten and is really smooth.

Turn the batter into the cake pan. Bake in middle level of preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes. Cake is done when it has puffed, and 2 1/2 to 3 inches around the circumference are set so that a fork plunged into that area comes out clean; the center should move slightly if the pan is shaken, and a fork comes out oily. I freaked out a little when I stuck the fork in the center and it came out with cake stuck over it..but that is the point, the cake is meant to be gooey in the middle and well done in the sides.

Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and reverse cake on the rack. Allow it to cool for an hour or two; it must be thoroughly cold if it is to be iced.

For the icing, place the chocolate and coffee in the small pan, cover and set in the larger pan of almost simmering water. Remove pans from heat and let chocolate melt for 5 minutes or so, until perfectly smooth. Lift chocolate pan out of the hot water, and beat in the butter a tablespoon at a time. Then beat over the ice and water until chocolate mixture has cooled to spreading consistency. At once spread it over your cake with spatula or knife.

I must say this baking session was a lesson in patience and discipline...discipline as I 'HAD' to follow the recipe to the T (and I am terrible at following recipes, love to improvise), patience because I had to sit and wait for the cake to cool down while all I wanted to do was dig into it and get a taste of it. But lessons learned and boy! the taste of hard work was sure sweet...:)

Okie doke...me now off to reading my Catalogs which have arrived!!

  Have a wonderful weekend!!

28 July 2010

16: Faux TTV Photographs

I stumbled across these TTV photographs on my absolute favorite site...www.etsy.com

I absolutely loved these TTV (Through The Viewfinder) photographs.....love the haziness, the aged look, the feel that these pics belonged to different era...TTV photographs are quite literally photographs taken through the viewfinder of another camera. There are quite some TTV enthusiasts you will find on various online groups...I quickly realized that taking original TTV images requires some investment in camera and equipment. Looked around some more and found "Faux" TTV photographs. There are some online sites that allow you to take a regular picture and make TTV photographs with them.....

Found Elsie who used these pics on a wall in her house. Love the idea and the lovely photographs....

I am so inspired now that this is definitely going to be a weekend project of mine. If any of you have already experimented with faux TTV photos, please do give me pointers or do share your work..

Watch out for my attempt at this...coming soon...until then happy browsing....

27 July 2010

15: Side Table Made of Books

What do you all think of this? I needed a side table to place a lamp in the living room. The hubby asked me to find a temporary solution until we found a perfect side table to go with the rest of our decor. I had previously piled up some magazines in the bedroom, which I kind of used as a side table. I tried to do the same thing in the living room and for some reason the table made from thinner magazines didn't look good holding the lamp on it. So I decided to make use of all the big fat engineering books from school which have been nicely resting in a box in the closet for the last five years. (I'm sure my professors and my smart and able engineering buddies who still use these books for work, would be appalled to see this.)

I think I like this look and may as well make this a permanent fixture and not look for a side table anymore. Do you guys think this is a good idea?
I looked around and found others who had similar ideas,

26 July 2010

14: Frozen Treats to Beat the Summer Heat

Mango Kulfi!! made with fresh mangoes, milk and nuts. Yumminess that has so many childhood memories associated with it. This was always my favorite as I loved ice creams that came on a stick and mango flavor was the best.

24 July 2010

13: Breakfast Quiche Muffins

Quiche is something I tried making for the first time and I was truly surprised at how easy it was. You can make it with different bases...hash browns, pastry sheets... I used Pillsbury garlic butter crescent rolls.

Beat 2 eggs, 1/4 cup half and half, 4 table spoons of cheese (I used mozzarella, cheddar, fontina cheese can also be used) salt to taste and pepper.

You can use your choice of veggies and meat, I used sauteed onions, green peppers, ground turkey and spinach. Add the veggies and meat to the egg and mix well. Now grease a muffin pan and divide the Pillsbury dough into 4 equal portions. Spread each portion of the dough to coat the muffin cup. Pour the egg mix in the each of the muffin cups. Do not over fill the muffin cups as it will over flow when heated. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, place the muffin pan in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Easy-peezy breakfast quiche muffins are ready. This is surely an ideal option when you have guests home for brunch...

12: Banana Nut Bread

I first had this when we got it from the local grocery store.... I must admit I am not a very big fan of this...but the hubby absolutely loves it. So decided to make it at home for him with an extra ingredient of love (*wink..*wink)

So to make one loaf of Banana nut bread, I used the following ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter
1-1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 bananas mashed into a smooth paste
handful of chopped walnuts

In a large vessel, whisk the butter and sugar into a smooth mix. Add the eggs and whisk for 3-4 minutes. Add the flour, baking soda and salt and whisk until the batter has a smooth consistency. At the very end add the mashed bananas and chopped walnuts. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and sprinkle some more chopped walnuts over the batter. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. You can check if the bread is done by sticking a fork/knife in it and if it comes out with nothing sticking on it.

Enjoy the bread with a little scoop of butter on it...

11: My Favorite Time of the Week - Saturday Mornings!

Happy happy weekend everyone.....its such a beautiful morning....perfect time for baking...

Let me let you all in on a secret...the reason I bake in the mornings is because as the sweet aroma fills the house, the hubby has no option but to wake up...:) and love to have him up early in the morning.

Have a wonderful day!

22 July 2010

10: Italian Dinner Nite

I am always excited when it comes to making pizza at home! It is something I have come to love..just the act of spreading the dough, making the sauce, and then realizing that the pizza pie is your canvas and you get to decorate it with your favorite veggies and meat...hmm..hmm...hmm...all I can do is hum along and let my imagination run wild...

I must say that I do not make my own pizza dough..I use the ready-made Pillsbury pizza dough. I use parchment paper and little flour to spread the dough over. To make the sauce, I use 5-6  Roma tomatoes, 1 chopped onion, basil leaves, parsley, and 1 clove of garlic finely chopped. In a pan heat 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil, add the chopped garlic and onions and fry till lightly brown. Add chopped tomatoes and the basil leaves and salt to taste. As the tomatoes become soft mash the mix with a ladle (you leave chunks of tomatoes in there if you like it that way). Let simmer on low heat for a while. If there is excess sauce, you can always refrigerate it. I used the same sauce to also make spaghetti and meatballs.

Once the sauce is cooled spread the sauce on the pizza pie and the spread a thin layer of mozzarella cheese. I usually go light on cheese, as the cheese emits some water as it is heated and the pizza crust could become  soggy. Then add your favorite toppings and place the pizza in the oven. The pizza can be placed on a regular cookie try. To get a evenly toasted and crispy crust you should preferably use a pizza stone. Bake the pizza for 12-14 minutes. If you prefer a cheesy pizza, after the pizza is done, add some more cheese and let it stay in the oven for another minute. A perfect gourmet pizza in less than 30 minutes.

Buon appetito!

20 July 2010

9: Of Masks and Home Decor

"Although I know it's unfair I reveal myself one mask at a time" - Stephen Dunn

These words are so true...at least they hold true for me...I often find myself donning different roles and personalities with different groups of people. Anyway moving onto masks as home decor, I am almost always instantaneously drawn to them as I feel every mask has a culture, an emotion associated with it. I have collected some wall masks over a period of time and I must say I have grown extremely fond of them as there is something unique about each of them.

The oldest mask I have is an African tribal mask, which is also incidentally the very first piece of home decor I bought in the U.S. It has been with me through the last seven years and has been a part every house I've lived in, so you can guess...I am emotionally attached to this one..

The other two favorites I own are two Balinese wood dot pattern masks that I found in an antique store. Must say I love the fine dot pattern on the "Prince of Java" mask

This was a carnival mask I picked up in New Orleans

Last but not the least, a serene Buddha mask...nothing more soothing than the calming face of Buddha

8: House Tour from Apartment Therapy

A little loft house tour...I really liked the chalkboard wall and the wall of frames and mirrors. I love what they have done with such a small space.

Hope you enjoy it too...Here's the link Enter House Tour

19 July 2010

7: Finger licking Good Comfort Food

Both my sweetie and me have been feeling a little under the weather since yesterday...And all I could crave for today was hot dal, rice and ghee...and my sweetie thought making 'dosakaya' (yellow cucumber) dal would be just perfect. I have never made this before. But I think when one can make tomato dal, dosakaya dal should be no different. I decided to just improvise on the go.

I had 2 yellow cucumbers which I peeled, cut and cleaned the insides and then cut into small cubes. I then pressure cooked toor dal with green chillies and half the cut cucumber and half a tomato. Heat oil/ ghee (I use ghee for the flavor) and add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves and 1 garlic clove. Then add finely chopped half onion, add a pinch of salt and fry until onion is lightly browned. Add the remaining cucumber cubes and fry until the cucumber turns translucent. Then add the cooked dal and salt to taste and bring to a boil. I add a spoon of ghee and some fresh curry leaves at the very end for taste.

I also made a quick and easy aloo-tomato sabzi. Pressure cook 2 large potatoes. Heat oil and add cumin seeds, green chillies and 1/2 onion (finely chopped). Fry until onion turns brown, then add tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of coriander powder and fry until you do not have any solid pieces of tomatoes in the mix. Then add the boiled and diced potatoes and fry for 10 minutes. Garnish with chopped coriander and a hint of lime juice.

I must say, there are two happy and content stomachs in the house today...

P.S: A little fact about Dal I did not know until recently, the term Dal is a Sanskrit word which means "Split"

6: A Bright and Cheerful start to the Week

My very first attempt at painting with water colors.....I have definitely seen kids do a better job than this..but i am just excited that I got started :)

Made me realize have every brush stroke has to flow naturally through you hands, I had quite some trouble getting the strokes right..and then add to the fact that I am color blind....I had to keep asking my sweetie what each color was...An increased respect for every artist out there...its only when you start doing it do you realize how talented these people are.

I made the promise to myself that I shall keep at painting until I get really good at this...

Have a great great blessed Monday...

18 July 2010

5: Beautiful Kitchens

Kitchen designs showcased by Design Sponge: sneak peek best of: kitchens

Such beautiful and unique kitchens! check it out for some great ideas and some inspiration.

4: Snapshots from Yesterday...

From sudden thunderstorms to bright blue skies, a perfect sunset at the beach, lightning bolts crisscrossing in the dark sky....yesterday saw it all...was a beautiful blessed day...

17 July 2010

3: Happy Weekend!

Love weekend mornings! coffee, brownies, and some good reading..

Loved the Peacock chair from Cappellini (Italy) - for those who are curious it costs $6,406 for solid color; $10,028 for color backed with gray....

16 July 2010

2: Simple & Quick Mediterranean Dinner for Two @ Home

I always try to keep my cooking during the week as simple as possible. I hate spending too much time in the kitchen after coming home from work. This recipe was a no-brainer as I had leftover turkey meatballs and all I needed was the pita pockets which I picked up on the way back home.

I first made the dill rice. For this heat olive oil in a pan and add 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic, after the garlic is lightly browned, add 2 cups of rice and 2-3 table spoons of dill weed. Stir fry the rice for 3-4 minutes and add salt as needed. (Garlic powder can be used instead of garlic cloves).

I made my own version of the tzatziki sauce. Beat a cup of yogurt with 2-3 table spoons of water. Add a table spoon of finely grated cucumber, garlic powder, salt and finely chopped parsley.

For the pitas, microwave the pita pockets for 20 secs. Place a layer of lettuce or baby spinach (I used iceberg lettuce and romaine), thin slices of cucumber, then the turkey meatballs cut into medium pieces. Add 2-3 spoons of the tzatziki sauce.

A yum meal for two in less than 15 mins and less than $10!

15 July 2010

1: My very first post!!

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

The inspiration for my blog title...I was taught this song when I was in middle school at St. Ann's High School. I vividly remember the day our music teacher taught us this song. I had not heard about the Sound of Music until then. As a little girl in India, who had no clue what apple strudels or schnitzels were, who had never seen snowflakes, these lyrics captured my imagination then...and to this day it fascinates me. I could not think of a more apt title for my blog about all my favorite things.

I am an engineer by degree and a research associate by profession, but coming from a family full of creative minds, I have always believed that there is a creative side to me and this blog is my attempt to capture my journey as I embark on finding my creative side.
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