Cook's Hideout: December 2015

December 31, 2015

Best of 2015

It's that time of the year to look back and reflect on the year that passed. 2015 was a great year overall, both personally and for the blog.
This is another year of being a full time mom and a part time food blogger. The most memorable memory of 2015 is celebrating my mom's 60th birthday. Planning and executing a surprise birthday is quite a task but the end result was totally worth the effort. Our trip to Niagara is another memory that I will remember for a long time. Also this is the year when we got to spend time with family from all around the world -- thank you all for visiting us and hope you guys can come back again :-)
As for the blog, I logged in a little more than 300 posts and also started to explore more social media networks. My latest favorite is Instagram that I have been updating almost every day. Pinterest has also been getting some love :-)
Big thanks to the family, my blogging marathon buddies for the support and inspiration :-)

Here's wishing everyone a very Happy and Prosperous New Year 2016. May the new year bring in many more delicious and healthy dishes your way.

Here are my favorite dishes from each month in 2015.

Sending this over to Valli for her Best of 2015 event.

December 30, 2015

Sourdough Chocolate Cake

Bake-a-thon 2015: Day 13
Bake of the day: Sourdough Chocolate Cake
I'm going to end this year and Bake-a-thon on a sweet note with this Sourdough chocolate cake. Sourdough is usually associated with rustic breads but it can also be used to make delicious cakes like this one. I already made carrot cake with sourdough and it was quite a hit. That reminds me to make that one again sometime.
Chocolate cake using Sourdough Starter
I made this cake twice -- first time for my cousins birthday, but I couldn't take pictures and second time to take pictures and enjoy it again. The cake doesn't have any tell tale sign taste of sourdough and everybody liked it a lot. It is a very moist and chocolaty cake that needs just a little bit of planning. 

December 29, 2015

Recipe Failures 2015

As much as I want to admit that all my recipes turn out great, there are quite a few recipe mishaps in the kitchen. After documenting my Nutella swirl bread failures, I started to take photos of all of my failed attempts. So without further ado, here are some of my epic recipe failures for the year 2015:

Bread without Salt: One of the biggest lesson I learned this year is not to forget adding salt in any bread recipe. I made that mistake twice and the bread was unmistakably tasted and looked like cardboard both times. So always ADD SALT to bread dough.

December 28, 2015

Mexican Chocolate Bars

Bake-a-thon 2015: Day 12
Bake of the day: Mexican Chocolate Bars
Last week of December, last couple of posts for this year's Bake-a-thon.. sigh.. time sure is zooming by fast :-( Can't believe we are just a few days away from a new year, I'm excited and anxious as to what it's going to bring.
Mexican Chocolate Squares
Coming back to today's dish, I made these Mexican Chocolate bars way back in May when I had my blog buddies over for a get together. I took the photos but didn't get a chance to post the recipe till now. Recipe is from Woman's Day.

December 26, 2015

Chocolate Cookies (Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies)

Blogging Marathon# 59: Week 4/ Day 3
Theme: Holiday Bakes
Dish: Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies
Hope all of you are having a good holiday weekend. Mine turned out to be busier than expected and I couldn't find time to type the posts that I planned for the weekend. These chocolate cookies were supposed to be posted yesterday but with my poor time management they are a day late :-(
Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies
I made these Chocolate chip cookies aka World Peace cookies by Dorie Greenspan twice this month. I sent a batch with my mom for my cousins in India and the second batch went to my son's school as a holiday treat. I kept a few home and left them out along with some chocolate-chip cookies for Santa on Christmas eve.

December 25, 2015

Orange-Cranberry and Nut Fruitcake

Blogging Marathon# 59: Week 4/ Day 2
Theme: Holiday Bakes
Dish: Orange and Cranberry Fruitcake
Merry Christmas to all of you.
We had a fun filled Christmas eve party with friends last night and today it's going to be another great to spend with family. My sister and my cousin are coming over for Christmas lunch, so the post is going to be rather short today :-)
Fruitcake with Orange, Cranberries & Nuts
I made this fruitcake to give as gift and this recipe is great for people like me who are not great at planning ahead and decide to make a fruitcake in the last minute. Recipe comes from King Arthur Flour and like all their bakes, this one turned out great. Here's the 90 minute fruitcake I made last year and here's the Vegan fruitcake I made the year before.

December 24, 2015

Hasselback Potatoes

Blogging Marathon# 59: Week 4/ Day 1
Theme: Holiday Bakes
Dish: Hasselback Potatoes
We are starting our last week of blogging marathon for this year and my theme for the week is 'Holiday Bakes'. I'm starting with a simple baked potato dish called 'Hasselback potatoes'.
Hasselback Potatoes with Paprika & Parmesan
Even though it has a fancy name it is not that difficult to make. Once you get the thinly slicing the potatoes without cutting all the way through part correct, everything else happens in the oven and is pretty much hands free from there on.

December 23, 2015

Overnight Panettone

Bake-a-thon 2015: Day 10
Bake of the Day: Overnight Panettone
Panettone has been on my baking list for a very very long time. Last year I took the leap and even bought these panettone paper pans from King Arthur flour, then I chickened out in the last minute. So, this year I made up my mind to give it a try.
Panettone recipe
I followed this recipe for Overnight Panettone from King Arthur flour. This recipe has much less fat than the traditional more luxurious recipes. But it is light and delicious. Addition of Fiori di Sicilia extract gives it that special holiday flavor.

December 22, 2015

Vegan Eggnog with Almond Milk

I've heard a lot about Eggnog but never tried it myself. The thought of drinking raw egg didn't really appeal to me. Last year I made this Mango Eggnog and it was quite a hit even with the kids.
This year I was tempted to try a vegan eggnog recipe when I saw this on Food52. It  is made with soaked cashews and full fat coconut milk to make it thick and the spices give the required oomph and deliciousness. I looked for more vegan eggnog recipes and found another recipe from Tasty Yummies, this one is made with cashew milk, soaked raw cashews and coconut milk.

December 21, 2015

Nutella Star Bread

Bake-a-thon 2015: Day 9
Bake of the Day: Nutella Star Bread
Star bread has been on my to-make list ever since I saw this beautiful loaf on Nalini's blog. Finally I got to make it for Bake-a-thon. Instead of Nalini's savory bread, I made a Nutella filling star bread and the whole family absolutely loved it.
Flower Shaped Nutella Bread

Flower Shaped Nutella Bread
I followed the recipe from King Arthur flour. The filling for this bread can be anything from cinnamon sugar to Nutella to even garlic and cheese. Since Nutella is one of my kids favorite I wanted to try it with that, but I'm definitely going to make the savory version sometime soon.

December 20, 2015

Buttery Sourdough Buns

It's only 4 days to Christmas and hope all of you have your gifts and menus ready for the big day. This year, one of our lovely friend is hosting the Christmas eve party and she asked me to bring some dinner rolls. They all love these golden pull apart dinner rolls, but I wanted to try a new recipe this year.
I found the recipe for these sourdough buns in the King Arthur Flour baker's catalog. I loved their cute little swirly shape and the addition of paprika to the butter gives them a nice reddish hue on top.
These buns are super soft on the inside and a nice crispy crust almost like a crescent roll. The swirly shape means they are fun to unravel and enjoy just like a crescent roll.

Vegetarian Holiday Specials

Vegetarian Holiday Specials: Try some of these vegetarian holiday special dishes for your next party.


December 19, 2015

Navratan Paratha

Blogging Marathon# 59: Week 3/ Day 3
Theme: Stuffed Dishes
Dish: Navratan Paratha
After a stuffed curry and stuffed paratha, I was wondering what to make for the 3rd day in this series. I had some stuffed desserts and pasta dishes bookmarked but nothing really wanted me to get up and cook. Then I watched the recipe for this Navratan paratha on a cooking show and I knew that the 3rd dish was set.
Navarathan paratha
As the name suggests this paratha recipe is stuffed with 9 gems or Nav-ratan or 9 different veggies and dry fruit. All the 9 ingredients are boiled and mashed along with spices and then stuffed inside the dough to make the parathas.

December 18, 2015

Chocolate-Caramel Sandwich Cookies

Bake-a-thon 2015: Day 8
Bake of the Day: Chocolate-Caramel Sandwich Cookies
I made these cute little chocolate-caramel sandwich cookies for my daughter's Halloween party in school. They were quite a hit and all her teachers wanted the recipe. The recipe is from Martha Stewart site.
Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
Chocolate cookies are very easy to put together, just mix all the ingredients, roll and bake. The only change I made is to use egg replacer powder instead of the egg yolk.

Spinach & Paneer Stuffed Paratha

Blogging Marathon# 59: Week 3/ Day 2
Theme: Stuffed Dishes
Dish: Spinach & Paneer Stuffed Paratha
Today's Stuffed dish is a simple paratha that is stuffed with spinach and grated paneer. I call it a simple dish because the filling is not really stuffed into the dough, it is put on the roti and folded while cooking making this a perfect recipe for anyone who thinks making stuffed rotis is difficult.
Palak Paneer Paratha
There are about 3~4 versions for palak paneer parathas on Tarla Dalal's site and this was probably the easiest one to make, perfect even for the most novice cook.

December 17, 2015

Bhindi Masala Curry (Spicy Stuffed Okra Curry)

Blogging Marathon# 59: Week 3/ Day 1
Theme: Stuffed Dishes
Dish: Stuffed Bhindi Masala Curry
We are starting a new week of blogging marathon today and my theme for the week is 'Stuffed Dishes'. First up is a delicious stuffed bhindi/ okra in a tomato gravy recipe.
Recipe is from a Telugu cooking show. It looked like a show stopper and I noted it down in my book. As I was looking for dishes to make for this week, this one looked very tempting and luckily I was able to buy some nice looking okra too.

December 16, 2015

Edible Gift Ideas for the Holidays

Edible Gift Ideas for the Holidays -- Cookies, Cakes, Breads etc.,

Eggless Strawberry Cream Cheese Cupcakes

Bake-a-thon 2015: Day 7
Bake of the Day: Eggless Strawberry Creamcheese Cupcakes
Did you know that yesterday, December 15th, was National Cupcake day? I didn't either, but it was on my daughter's calendar and that's how I found out :-) So here's a recipe celebrating the cupcake day.
Cupcakes with Strawberry & Creamcheese
I actually made these for my mom's 60th birthday couple of months ago. We also celebrated my daughter's 3rd birthday on the same day, hence the 60 & 3 toppers on the cake. I decorated some with fresh strawberries and some with fondant toppers. Base is my favorite vegan vanilla cupcakes stuffed with a piece of cream cheese which is in turn topped with strawberry jam.

December 14, 2015

Eggless Fruit & Nut Cake

Bake-a-thon 2015: Day 6
Bake of the Day: Fruit & Nut Cake without Eggs
We are just 12 short days away from Christmas and I'm sure everyone is in full gear with holiday decorating, shopping and baking. We just put our Christmas tree up yesterday and the decoration is still work-in-progress. My 3 year old is very excited about Christmas and has been actively helping me in decorating the house :-)
Fruit & Nut Cake without Eggs
This fruit & nut cake reminds me of Britannia snack cake with little specks of tutti fruity in it. I have made this cake about half a dozen times already and it has been quite a hit every time I make it. Recipe is from Nisha Madhulika's site. Recipe needs just a few basic baking ingredients and a few minutes of stirring, voila you have a delicious cake in less than an hour.

December 12, 2015

Ambrosia Parfait

Today I have a no-cook, no-bake dessert that is quick and easy to make. It is called Ambrosia Salad aka fruit salad. Ambrosia literally means 'food of the gods'  in Greek & Roman mythology. But this dish is very much American and from what I've read it is a very popular dessert/ salad that is served around holidays in the Southern states.
Ambrosia Fruit salad
It is quite a simple dish to make -- lightly sweetened whipped cream is mixed with fresh fruit and grated coconut. Even though it sounds so easy, the resulting dish is light and absolutely delicious, hence the name - Ambrosia.

Ragi Semya Upma

Blogging Marathon# 59: Week 2/ Day 3
Theme: Instant Breakfast
Dish: Ragi Semya Upma
Today's quick and easy breakfast is Ragi Semya Upma. I have to say this upma takes a little longer than regular semya upma, but it can be made under 20 minutes. The most time taking is probably getting the steamer ready to steam the noodles, so if you get that going breakfast will be on the table in no time.
Ragi Semya
I don't even remember when I picked up a packet of Anil ragi semya. I found it safely stored in the pantry. After reading the instructions on how to prepare the semya, I almost gave up for today's theme. Regular semya just needs to be boiled until tender, but ragi noodles are first soaked in plenty of water and then steamed until tender.

December 11, 2015

Wholewheat Banana Bread (made with Honey)

Bake-a-thon 2015: Day 5
Bake of the Day: Wholewheat Banana Bread
I sometimes feel that overripe bananas are a bane of my existence. They haunt me with their lingering smell and I can't eat or throw them away. The family abandons them the minute they turn slightly blotchy outside even though they are perfect inside. I have learnt to show them only peeled ones so they don't judge it by the package.
Banana Bread with Honey
Even with all this I end up with 3~4 overripe bananas by the end of the week. I have so many versions of banana breads/ muffins that making another one doesn't excite me that much. But this recipe from Cookie+Kate is made with wholewheat (pastry) flour and is sweetened with honey (or maple syrup) got me off my behind and into the kitchen to bake.

Avocado Breakfast Sandwich

Blogging Marathon# 59: Week 2/ Day 2
Theme: Instant Breakfast
Dish: Avocado Sandwich
Day 2 for Instant breakfast and I have another bread based breakfast. Today is a savory sandwich with avocado and other optional toppings.
Avocado & Egg Sandwich
The idea for this sandwich came from a TV show I watched about an year ago. They had a segment on healthy breakfasts and this avocado sandwich was one of them. I have been making this ever since for myself and enjoy it very much.

December 10, 2015

Peanut Butter and Banana Breakfast Sandwich

Blogging Marathon# 59: Week 2/ Day 1
Theme: Instant Breakfast
Dish: Peanut Butter & Banana Sandwich
My theme for this week's blogging marathon is 'Instant Breakfast' and Valli wants it to be a quick dish that can be made in less than 20 minutes. So I have 3 easy to make dishes that are filling and delicious.
Banana and Peanut Butter Sandwich
Breakfast in my household is usually cereal, oats or quick sandwiches, I don't usually cook anything elaborate except for when we have company. So this instant breakfast recipe theme is definitely up my alley and I'm going to share them here this week.

December 09, 2015

Mini Chocolate Chip Scones

Bake-a-thon 2015: Day 4
Bake of the Day: Mini Chocolate Scones

I think scones are one of the easiest baked goods, they can be made without any prior planning with ingredients straight from the fridge. When I see any new scone recipe, I bookmark it right away. This mini chocolate chip scones recipe is from King Arthur flour.
Chocolate Chip Scones
Mini vanilla scones are sold at Starbucks for about a $1, but they are quite easy to make at home for fraction of the cost. Except for using some wholewheat pastry flour I followed the recipe to the T and these mini scones are really very addictive -- flaky and delicious.

December 08, 2015

Swedish Rice Pudding for #Food of the World

We are going to Sweden for this month's edition of #Food of the World event. I have tried and posted quite a few Swedish recipes in the past, but I still have a lot bookmarked to try. Swedish Cinnamon rolls aka kanelbullar are on the top of that list. But I posted this sticky pecan bread today, so didn't want to make something similar again.
Swedish Rice Porridge
After searching for vegetarian Swedish recipes, I finalized this simple and easy to make Rice pudding aka Risgrynsgröt. Being a south Indian, rice based dishes are always welcome and this rice pudding is very similar to our very own paramannam except the Swedish version is spiced with cinnamon whereas the Indian version has cardamom.

Overnight Pecan Sticky Bread for #BreadBakers

This month's theme for BreadBakers is Overnight Breakfast Breads. Our host for the month is Holly Baker and she wanted us to come up with either a yeasted or quick bread that can be prepared the night before and then baked off in the morning. December being a busy time for celebrations and getting together with family and friends, it is always nice to have these overnight breads in your repertoire, so that you, the bake, can enjoy the fruits (or breads!) of your labor with your loved ones. Scroll to the bottom to get more ideas for overnight bread from my fellow Bread Bakers.
Overnight Sticky Pecan Wedges
Initially I wanted to prepare a no-knead bread, but then I realized that it involved shaping and baking in the morning which didn't really fit into theme. I couldn't really find any bread that was appropriate for the theme and I almost panicked.

December 07, 2015

Toasted Millet & Oats Granola

Bake-a-thon 2015: Day 3
Bake of the Day: Toasted Millet & Oats Granola
Today I have a simple and easy to make granola recipe with millet, rolled oats, coconut and pistachios. Recipe is from Everyday Food by Martha Stewart. This recipe has been on my to-make list for a while now and I'm glad I can finally strike it off from the list.
Oats & Millet Granola
This granola is crunchy with the toasted millet and chewy with the coconut flakes and dried cranberries. I like to eat it over some Greek yogurt for breakfast. Soaking it in almond milk makes it a little soft and easier to eat.

December 06, 2015

Pan Seared Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Almonds

Here's a quick and easy side dish made with Brussels Sprouts for your holiday meals. Brussels sprouts have quite a bad rap because they tend to be pungent and mealy when cooked improperly. But this pan seared brussels sprouts recipe is so tasty that even my 3 year old couldn't stop eating them.
Seared Brussels Sprouts with Almonds
Pan searing brussels sprouts until toasty is a quick alternative to roasting them in the oven. Topping with crispy panko breadcrumbs and almonds nicely balance both the taste and texture of the dish.

December 05, 2015

Nutella Pretzel Nachos

Blogging Marathon# 59: Week 1/ Day 3
Theme: Bring on the Nachos
Dish: Nutella Pretzel Nachos
After 2 savory Nacho recipes, I have a quick and easy sweet nacho recipe today. Recipe is from Food Network and I knew right away that my kids will enjoy these. I wasn't wrong, they loved these nachos and even posed for the clicks.
Pretzel Nachos with Nutella
This is a no bake recipe and all it needs is layering the ingredients and you are ready to enjoy in no time. Our favorite pretzel chips are these thin pretzel crisps, they are great to eat with some hummus and salsa and taste even better smothered in warm Nutella.

December 04, 2015

Harvest Grains Loaf

Bake-a-thon 2015: Day 2
Bake of the Day: Harvest Grains Loaf
Here's another family favorite bread that is soft and delicious with a nice blend of grains and seeds. I used King Arthur's Harvest Grain blend which is a mixture of 4 grains and 4 seeds. You can use any combination of grains and seeds. Grains like oat berries, millet, barley flakes and seeds like flax, poppy, sesame, sunflower etc can be used.
Wholewheat bread with grains
I think the next time I make this bread I will use a higher ratio of wholewheat to all purpose flour. Like I said before this is a very soft and tasty bread that is great toasted for even in a sandwich. I made some potato curry & cheese sandwiches and also Nutella sandwiches with this bread. Both tasted great.

Indian Style Nachos with Kidney Beans (Naan-Chos)

Blogging Marathon# 59: Week 1/ Day 2
Theme: Bring on the Nachos
Dish: Indian Style Nachos with Kidney Beans
I was raking my mind on what nachos to make for today. I googled quite a bit to find something I liked and then found these vegetable chili nachos on Foodgawker. But instead of topping the nachos with traditional chili, I thought of giving the dish an Indian touch by topping it with Rajma masala (Kidney bean curry).
Naanchos with Rajma
So I went ahead and Indianized (is that even a word???) all of the components and made it the same way as the regular nachos. This dish turned out so delicious and I was very impressed with my own creation.

December 03, 2015

Greek Nachos with Tzatziki Sauce

Blogging Marathon# 59: Week 1/ Day 1
Theme: Bring on the Nachos
Dish: Greek Nachos with Tzatziki Sauce
We are starting a brand new blogging marathon today and I picked a very interesting theme. It is 'Bring on your Nachos' and so for the next 3 days, I'm going to post some interesting Nacho recipes -- a little different from the cheese laden ones we are all used to.
Vegetarian Greek Nachos
These Greek Nachos have been on my mind ever since I watched Kelsey Nixon make them on The Kitchn. I bookmarked the recipe right away, but it took me all this while to get to making it.

December 02, 2015

Basic Sourdough Bread

Bake-a-thon 2015: Day 1
Bake of the day: Basic Sourdough Bread
It's December already which means we are right smack in the middle of the holiday season. It is also the month where few baking enthusiastic bloggers come together for a Bake-a-thon. So look out for new posts with baked goodies on Monday, Wednesday and Friday in December. Thank you to Valli for organizing the event and also for the very helpful linky tool so all of our bakes are all in one place.
Sourdough Bread
First up is a basic sourdough bread. I already have a basic sourdough sandwich bread on the blog that is made with very few ingredients. This one has some fat and potato flour for a more softer crumb and a fluffier bread.


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