Cook's Hideout: December 2014

December 31, 2014

Fruited Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Bake-a-thon 2014: Day 14
Bake of the Day: Fruited Sourdough Bread
It has been a busy Christmas weekend. We drove to Chicago to see my cousins. It was a really long drive (about 800 miles) and thankfully it went really well, though we are still recovering from the after effects. I had all the last weeks posts scheduled ahead of time and planned on baking couple of cookies for the last 2 days of bake-a-thon.
Fruited Sourdough Sandwich Bread
But unfortunately the hectic weekend is taking a toll on me. I can't seem to keep myself awake, so I looked through my drafts and found 2 bread recipes that I baked a while back. After the eggless ricotta loaf, here's another loaf bread using sourdough starter and fruits like apple & raisins.

December 30, 2014

Best of 2014

It's that time of the year to stop and dwell on the good, the bad and the ugly of the past year. Like any other year 2014 flew by real fast. As a full time home maker and part time food blogger, the blog had a whopping 325 posts this year, highest in all of my 9 years of blogging. Big thanks to my family and the Blogging marathon group for the inspiration and motivation to blog actively.
My month long trip to India was the most exciting part of this year. Though I couldn't do a lot of what I planned to do in India, I was lucky to spend some quality time with my mom. The kids had a blast too. Visiting Chicago and my cousins for Christmas is another memory that I'll cherish from this year.
A-Z Indian States and A-Z International Cooking series are the highlights from this year's blogging. With the help of my fellow marathoners, I finally have a pictorial recipe index. Though it's still work in progress -- I'm happy I started working on it.

Here's wishing all of you a very Happy, Prosperous & Successful New Year -- 2015.

This is a recap of my favorites from each month in 2014.

December 29, 2014

Eggless Ricotta Loaf

Bake-a-thon 2014: Day 13
Bake of the Day: Eggless Ricotta Loaf
This is going to be a quick post today. I had some ricotta cheese in the fridge that needed to be used up and I also had to bake a bread for the week, so a little googling landed me at Versatile Kitchen's amazing eggless ricotta loaf recipe.
It is eggless but has the nice moist and beautiful crumb that the usual brioche breads have. A perfect bread to have for breakfast with some butter and jam or for a more elaborate French toast breakfast. It tastes good just as is for a quick snack.

December 27, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie

This is one of the 3 pies along with Sweet Potato Pecan Pie that I made at the pie making class last month. The crust here is super simple, it's just crumbled cookies mixed with some melted butter. I guess the chef wanted to teach us a very easy crust along with the ones that are a bit more elaborate.
The filling is the highlight of this pie. I wasn't sure if I would like the peanut butter in the filling, but when I tasted it -- it was a dynamite. Peanut butter taste is not too assertive, but plays a nice balance to the cream cheese and brown sugar.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cream Pie

December 26, 2014

Gingerbread People Cookies

Bake-a-thon 2014: Day 12
Bake of the Day: Gingerbread People Cookies
I love the smell of Gingerbread houses -- the vanilla frosting mixed with the spices from the gingerbread makes it feel like Christmas time. 3 years ago, when I was still working, our department decided to participate in the annual gingerbread house competition. It was so much fun to come together as a team and even though we didn't win, I think we had a great time making the gingerbread house.
Gingerbread People Cookies
My son has been making gingerbread houses in school and we keep it around the house for a while because I love the smell of it and it feels like Christmas for a little longer in the new year too.
This year my son volunteered to bring Gingerbread people to school. It was his brilliant idea (!!!!!!) to include people in their gingerbread houses and when the teacher said they are difficult to find, he volunteered to bring them himself (?????). Well, since I love baking, I didn't complain and took up the project.

Morning Glory Oatmeal

Blogging Marathon# 47: Week 4/ Day 3
Theme: Bookmarked Recipes
Dish: Morning Glory Oatmeal
For the final day of this year's blogging marathon, I have a very healthy & delicious variation to regular oatmeal. I bookmarked the recipe from Joy the Baker's blog and made it almost a year ago in January of this year. Finally these healthy oats are seeing the light of day today :-)
Morning Glory Oatmeal

December 25, 2014

Mini Éclairs with Strawberries & Cream

Blogging Marathon# 47: Week 4/ Day 2
Theme: Bookmarked Recipes
Dish: Mini Eclairs
For Day 2 of this week's marathon, I have these cute little mini eclairs I made back in April for the Easter party at home. I was always under the impression that eclairs are very difficult to make, on the contrary these are quite easy to put together and are sure to impress the guests.
Mini Eclairs with Strawberries & CreamThe first time I heard the word 'Éclair', I thought it the Cadbury chocolate eclairs we used to eat as kids. But this one is actually a French pastry that is made with choux dough filled with a cream and topped with icing. It is very interesting to know that the word comes from French éclair 'flash of lightning', so named because it is eaten quickly in a flash.

December 24, 2014

90 Minute Fruit Cake

Bake-a-thon 2014: Day 11
Bake of the Day: 90 Minute Fruit Cake
Christmas is just 1 day away. If you didn't make a fruitcake and think you don't have time to make it, think again. This 90 minute fruitcake is just for you. Instead of making loaves or round shaped fruitcakes, these mini bundt cakes are very easy to put together and taste almost like the regular fruitcake.
90 Minute Fruit Cake
Last year I made an eggless Christmas Fruitcake that involved soaking in the dry fruit and nuts in orange juice or some kind of alcohol for at least 1 day or more to get the best flavor. This year I wanted to make something different and when I saw these mini bundt cake recipe in the King Arthur catalog, I knew I found myself a good recipe.

Vegan Mango Bread

Blogging Marathon# 47: Week 4/ Day 1
Theme: Bookmarked Recipes
Dish: Vegan Mango Bread
We are starting our last and final week of blogging marathon for this year today. My theme for this week is 'Bookmarked Recipes'. I have so many recipes in my bookmarks that it is even impossible to make them all in this life time. Also I don't think I will ever be able to organize them in a proper way to actually see what I have in there. All these recipes are bookmarked all over the place -- some on Pinterest, some on Foodgawker, some on my desktop and some on my laptop.
Vegan Mango Bread
I looked through all my photo folders from this year and found 3 bookmarked recipes that I already made but didn't get a chance to post. So this is my idea of cleaning up my folders for the new year.

December 22, 2014

Lemon Almond Biscotti

Bake-a-thon 2014: Day 10
Bake of the Day: Lemon Almond Biscotti
Yay!! It's the week of Christmas. My 7 year old is very excited and can't wait for Christmas day and to open his gifts. I have all the gifts already delivered, but haven't had a chance to wrap them. Since he's in school today, I have to try and finish wrapping them. These crunchy Lemon-almond cookies are great while wrapping along with some hot tea :-)
I made these as 'Christmas gifts' for my friends. I gave them a choice of 6 homemade treats to pick from and these biscotti were on ALL of their lists. Oh, by the way, do check my list of homemade edible gifts if you have time and plan on giving them to your dear ones.
Lemon Almond Biscotti
These lemon-almond biscotti are very subtly flavored with lemon and almond. Recipe is from King Arthur Flour site. Lemon zest and lemon juice are added along with almond extract. I added some sliced almonds for some extra crunch. The lemon drizzle on top is a really nice touch.

December 21, 2014

Spiced Cranberry Pear Cider

It has been a busy weekend with a holiday brunch at home, lot of baking and cooking. With the weather being very cloudy and gloomy, I couldn't get a chance to take photos of the food or even the cookies. I saved a few, hopefully the sun will be out tomorrow and I can take come decent photos.
Spiced Cranberry Pear Cider
Today's Cranberry-Pear cider recipe is from Vegetarian times magazine and I made it for the brunch yesterday. It is spiced with ginger & cinnamon and is served warm which is perfect for the chilly weather and also for the sniffles and coughs.

December 19, 2014

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

Bake-a-thon 2014: Day 9
Bake of the Day: Sweet Potato Pecan Pie
I recently took a 'Pie making' class along with a dear friend at Chef Central. The class was the day before Thanksgiving and the 3 pies we brought back from the class were served for dessert on Thanksgiving day.
Sweet Potato Pecan Pie
The crust is the foundation of any pie or tart. A good crust can enhance and elevate the resulting dessert. Conversely, a bad crust can make a wonderful filling lose its appeal. We learnt 3 different types of pie crusts: 3-2-1 Pie dough, Pâte sucrée and a simple cookie crust.

Garlic Naan

Blogging Marathon# 47: Week 3/ Day 3
Theme: Recipes from Menu Card
Dish: Garlic Naan
For the final day of this week's marathon, I have a delicious 'Garlic Naan' recipe that would go great with any Indian gravy curry especially with this Amritsari Chole. Ordering breads at a restaurant is quite a task because there are so many varieties to choose from. But there's also a problem with restaurant naans, sometimes they get too hard and chewy making it difficult to eat.
Garlic Naan
I have found that homemade naans when made with a combination of all-purpose flour and whole-wheat flour gives a nice soft texture to the naans. My mom loves my naans and always compares them with the restaurant ones, saying mine are so much better (yay!!)

December 18, 2014

Amritsari Chole (Spicy Chickpea Curry)

Blogging Marathon# 47: Week 3/ Day 2
Theme: Recipes from Menu Card
Dish: Amritsari Chole
We are going to order some 'Amritsari Chole' from Puranmal restaurant. There are a ton of chickpea curry variations from the Punjab/ Haryana region and I'm sure each household has there own version of these curries. So when I saw Amritsari Chole on the menu, I wanted to see how different it was from the other chole recipes.
Amritsari Chole (Spicy Chickpea Curry)
Amritsari chole is a very flavorful and delicious curry. I've never cooked chickpeas with tea leaves and this is one of the essential steps for this curry. The tea leaves make the chickpeas a deep dark color, but the taste of tea is not very prominent and doesn't change the taste of the dish.

December 17, 2014

Holiday Hoska (Eggless, Vegan recipe)

Bake-a-thon 2014: Day 8
Bake of the Day: Holiday Hoska
Hope all of you are done with your holiday shopping and started preparing for the big day, which is only 1 week away now. I finally ordered almost all of the kids gifts yesterday -- it is fun to shop online. I don't think I fair well at going shopping especially at this time of the year when the malls and roads are crowded. I prefer the peace of home :-) Now I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the gifts are shipped out on time and the mailman does not leave the package in the neighbor's house (has happened way too many times that I keep looking at the neighbors door every time I go out to check the mail). It is definitely the most stressful time of the year :-)
Holiday Hoska (Eggless, Vegan recipe)
What's not stressful is this beautiful holiday bread that is easy to make and sure to impress. The dough is very easy to work with and once you get a grip on making a dough braid, you are on your way to making this show stopper bread.

Palak Badam Shorba (Spinach Almond Soup)

Blogging Marathon# 47: Week 3/ Day 1
Theme: Recipes from Menu Card
Dish: Palak Badam Shorba
We are starting 3rd week of blogging marathon today and my theme for this week is 'Recipes from Menu Card'. Valli gave us a few menu cards to choose from and I picked the menu from Puranmal restaurant. We are supposed to pick dishes from 3 different courses, so I have 3 yummy restaurant style dishes coming up this week.
Palak Badam Shorba (Spinach Almond Soup)
I love reading menu cards and even though in a non-Indian restaurant here in the US, there are probably just 3~4 vegetarian dishes that I might be interested, I still make sure to look at all the pages for good measure :-)

December 15, 2014

Dhokli nu Shaak (Gujarati dish for ICC)

For this month's 'Indian Food Challenge', Valli gave us a fairly easy dish to make. It is a delicious yogurt based gravy that has besan cakes dunked in it. The minute I saw her announcement, I mentally made a note to make it, but slowly time flew right by and then this morning I saw Valli's email that her ICC post is up. It was only then I realized that I almost forgot about the event.
Dhokli nu Shaak
Thankfully I had all the ingredients on hand and my husband is travelling, so I can have a field day with yogurt based dishes :-) (did you see my Shrikand recipe from two days ago).
Besan cakes used in this dish are very similar to an Andhra dish called Besan chikki. My MIL sautes the besan before adding the water and making the cakes and the gravy is tamarind based and not buttermilk based.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes

Bake-a-thon 2014: Day 7
Bake of the Day: Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes
Did you know that today is 'National Cupcake Day'. I planned to post another dish today, but then I saw that today is National Cupcake day on my daughter's school calender and I didn't want to miss this opportunity to celebrate the delicious cupcakes.
Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes
I had buttermilk in the fridge and wanted to make something with it. A quick search on King Arthur Flour site landed me on this Peppermint Fudge Cupcakes recipe. We are not big mint fans, so I skipped it and so these are just regular chocolate cupcakes with some quick vanilla icing.

December 13, 2014

Mixed Fruit Shrikhand

Here's something different from all the different baking and kid friendly dishes I have been posting all week. A deliciously creamy Indian dessert made with yogurt and flavored with saffron and served with some fruit.
I was never a big fan of Shrikhand growing up and don't remember eating it many times. Even after started liking it, I've never made it at home because straining the yogurt seemed to be a big step and also I didn't want my yogurt-hating husband to find some strange contraption in the fridge and chuck it without telling me (I have done something similar to his stuff, so I'm sure he's probably waiting to take revenge). But once I discovered Greek yogurt, it is now a life changer.
Mixed Fruit Shrikhand
I love Chobani Greek yogurt and buy the plain, either non-fat or 2% quite often. I make salad dressings, raitas and if I am really feeling indulgent then this strawberry shrikhand or this frozen yogurt.

December 12, 2014

No Knead Honey Oat Bread

Bake-a-thon 2014: Day 6
Bake of the day: No Knead Honey Oat Bread
I like baking bread and usually use either my stand mixer or breadmaker to knead the bread. But I recently started making no-knead breads. As the name suggests there is no kneading required to make these breads. No-knead bread was how people made bread thousands of years ago -- before they discovered that by pulling, beating, stretching, stirring or otherwise 'kneading' wheat doughs they could speed up the gluten-developing process. A renewed interest in this technique started after a no-knead bread recipe was published in 2006 in The New York Times.
No Knead Honey Oat Bread

Taco Pizza (Vegetarian Recipe)

Blogging Marathon# 47: Week 2/ Day 3
Theme: Kid's Delight Event -- Pizza & Pasta
Dish: Taco Pizza
Today's dish is a Mexican - Italian fusion dish, Taco pizza. My son loves tacos and pizzas and this seemed to be a great dish which combines both of his favorites. I saw the recipe being made on TV by the Pioneer Woman and I knew I will be making it for my kids real soon.
Vegetarian Taco Pizza
Refried black beans are spread on the pizza instead of tomato sauce here and then baked with some grated cheese on top. What happens after the pizza comes out makes it a Mexican specialty.

December 11, 2014

Creamy Tomato Pasta Sauce

Blogging Marathon# 47: Week 2/ Day 2
Theme: Kid's Delight Event -- Pizza & Pasta
Dish: Creamy Tomato Pasta Sauce
Like I said in my yesterday's post, my kids love pasta and I'm always in the look out for interesting sauce recipes. Today's creamy tomato pasta sauce comes from Pioneer woman's site. I love Ree Drummond and her recipes are always easy to follow and have been a big hit in my house.
Creamy Tomato Pasta Sauce
This pasta sauce could not be simpler because it uses canned tomato sauce as the base. I always have all kinds of canned tomatoes (chopped, puree, paste and so on) in my pantry, so this would be something I can see myself making quite often. Creaminess comes from the addition of heavy cream and since this dish is for kids, I was liberal in adding it to the sauce :-) If you are concerned about the calorie intake then reduce the quantity of heavy cream or use half-n-half or even milk for a lighter version.

December 10, 2014

Pizza Dough with Semolina

Bake-a-thon 2014: Day 5
Bake of the day: Pizza Dough with Semolina
I have tried quite a few pizza crust recipes in the past and I think I found couple of recipes that I really like and work very well -- like this whole wheat crust and this regular pizza dough. But when I saw this pizza dough with semolina recipe in one of the King Arthur catalogs, I really wanted to try it out.
Pizza Dough with Semolina
I have never used semolina in baking before and I remember one of my friend telling me that fine sooji is a good substitute. I had to ask my blog buddies to find out if they ever used sooji in baking and they confirmed that they were able to successfully bake with sooji. So I went ahead and made the pizza dough with sooji.

Kid Approved Mac and Cheese

Blogging Marathon# 47: Week 2/ Day 1
Theme: Kid's Delight Event -- Pizza & Pasta
Dish: Macaroni & Cheese
We are starting 2nd week of blogging today and my theme for this week is 'Pizza & Pasta'. Mir is hosting this month's Kid's Delight event and asking us to send kid favorite pasta & pizza recipe. Valli is the brain behind Kid's Delight event.
For the first day I made 'Macaroni & Cheese', one of my kids favorite pasta dish. Unfortunately they love the mac & cheese from the box and the many times I tried making it at home, they were not really pleased with it. They like their macaroni to have that signature orange/ yellow color and the chalky cheese taste (??) which obviously a homemade version can never live up to. So I gave up and started buying Annie's mac & cheese for them.
Macaroni and Cheese

December 09, 2014

Suafa'i -- Samaon Banana Tapioca pudding (with Chocolate) for #Food of the World

This month we are going to Samoa the beautiful island country in the South Pacific ocean for #Food of the World event. I have tried these delicious fluffy and coconut milk soaked Pani popos and this super simple banana pudding, Poi from Samoa.
Today's recipe is a Samoan banana-tapioca soup called Suafa'i. Overripe bananas are cooked down along with coconut milk and tapioca. It is supposed to be a soup but I cooked it down to a pudding consistency. This dish is not really photogenic, so I added some chocolate chips to make it a little appetizing in the photos :-) Skip the chocolate if you want a more traditional Samoan dessert.
Suafa'i -- Samaon Banana Tapioca pudding

December 08, 2014

Cranberry-Pistachio Cream Scones

Bake-a-thon 2014: Day 4
Bake of the day: Cranberry Pistachio Cream Scones
I actually posted the recipe for these cream scones a while back already, but they are such a big hit with everyone who taste them, I'm posting them again today. The add-ins for these scones can be customized to ones taste preferences. I thought Cranberries and pistachios are a great combo for the holiday season.
Cranberry-Pistachio Cream Scones
I recently bought a scone pan which makes making uniform and even size scones much easier. But simply patting the dough down and cutting it into equal sized wedges will also suffice.

December 06, 2014

Cheesy Baked Farro

I am a sucker for cheese and keep buying different types of cheeses every time I go to specialty grocery stores. My son just started going taking a weekly class that is right next to Trader Joes and it is not helping anyone. I find myself walking through the aisles of Trader Joes every week looking at just about everything they have in the store and sometimes picking up random stuff that I don't really want or need.
I recently picked up some Gruyere & fontina cheeses from TJs. Cheeses there are a little reasonably priced when compared to other overpriced grocery stores and they also have a huge selection there.
Cheesy Baked Farro

December 05, 2014

Golden Pull-apart Butter buns

Bake-a-thon 2014: Day 3
Bake of the Day: Dinner Rolls
I love to bake and I'm always looking for opportunities to bake new recipes. I volunteered to bake something for our Thanksgiving potluck and bookmarked a new bread recipe but I couldn't buy one of the ingredients on time to make that bread. So I decided to bake these simple dinner rolls instead. They were a super hit at the party.
Golden Pull-apart Butter buns
Recipe is from King Arthur flour and these dinner rolls are soft and fluffy. I replaced some of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour and they were still so fluffy and delicious. Adding too much whole wheat flour might make these buns too dense, so make sure not to over-do with the whole wheat flour.

Amiri Khaman (Split Chickpea Squares)

Blogging Marathon# 47: Week 1/ Day 3
Theme: North Indian Starters
Dish: Amiri Khaman
I think my geography is a little dicey but I have a pretty good idea of Indian geography. I know where each state of India is located and I promise that I know this even before I did A-Z Indian states marathon. I'm surprised that most of the people from the North are so confused about the 4 south Indian states. They think everyone from the south is from Chennai and no the hindi movie 'Chennai Express' does not help even a little bit.
So anyway I know where today's starter is coming from :-) This dish is from the western state of Gujarat. I saw this recipe in 'Vegetarian Cooking of India' cookbook by Mridula Baljekar. These protein packed squares are simple, delicious and nutritious. They are excellent to serve as snack/ appetizer along with some ketchup and/ or sweet tamarind chutney.
Amiri Khaman

December 04, 2014

Baby Corn Pepper Fry

Blogging Marathon# 47: Week 1/ Day 2
Theme: North Indian Starters
Dish: Baby Corn Pepper Fry
For Day 2 of this week's blogging marathon, I made an Indo-Chinese favorite. Even though I stay away from deep frying, I couldn't stop myself from frying these yummy baby corn pakoras/ fritters. I had this appetizer way back when in India and have been thinking about it ever since, finally got a chance to try it at home now.
Baby Corn Pepper Fry
I am not 100% sure if this Indo-Chinese dish is really a North Indian starter, but since it is Indo-Chinese and China is in the north of India, I decided to run with it :-)

December 03, 2014

Chocolate Hazelnut Quick Bread (Nutella Chocolate Quick Bread)

Bake-a-thon 2014: Day 2
Bake of the Day: Chocolate Hazelnut Quick Bread
Smart phones are so convenient to take photos of just about anything we see anytime, anywhere. I browse through food magazines at the check out lanes and click photos of interesting recipes on my phone. Doctor's office is another place where I usually end up taking lot of recipe photos on the phone.
Chocolate Hazelnut Quick Bread (Nutella Chocolate Quick Bread)
Today's quick bread recipe was one of those I clicked from Food Network magazine in a grocery store. I think there were abut 50 quick bread recipes, both sweet and savory, and they looked very interesting -- so I made sure I saved them.

Chole-Aloo Tikki Chaat (Chickpea & Potato Pattie Chaat)

Blogging Marathon# 47: Week 1/ Day 1
Theme: North Indian Starters
Dish: Chole-Aloo Tikki Chaat
We are starting our last marathon for this year and my theme for this week is 'North Indian Starters'. Starters/ Appetizers are not really my forte because most of Indian starters are deep fried and I try to stay away from deep frying. When I saw this theme, I knew this will give me a chance to research on North Indian starters that I can add to my repertoire.
Valli hinted that we can made Chaats under this theme, so for the first day I have a very filling and delicious Chole-Aloo Tikki Chaat. I think this can be served as a first course for a simple North Indian meal.
Chole-Aloo Tikki Chaat (Chickpea & Potato Pattie Chaat)
Recipe is from Tarla Dalal's site. Delicious potato-pea patties are served with spicy and tangy chickpea gravy, then topped with crunchy sev and yummy mint & tamarind chutnies. This is a dish with lots of textures and flavors. A must try for all chaat lovers.

December 01, 2014

French Herb Bread

Bake-a-thon: Day 1
Bake of the day: French Herb Bread
It is December 1st and holiday season and count down to Christmas has already started. I have yet to bring my holiday decor out, will probably try and get everything done by the end of this week. I see the holiday lights already lit in some of my neighbors houses, hopefully we will have ours up soon too.
Christmas/ Holiday season means baking season for baking enthusiasts and I consider myself an eager enthusiast. So I've joined few of my blog buddies, led by the very lovely Valli, to do a Bake-a-thon, a month long baking event and we will be posting 3 times a week all through December with a linky tool to track all our baked treats.
French Herb Bread


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