Cook, Eat, Repeat Challenge: A Drink to Cherish

                                                   Tea/Chai/Cha:  Call what you will

Thin frozen puddles crackle under my boots and as I have, once again, forgotten to wear the gloves, my hands almost freeze the moment my fingers touch the icy steering. It had rained last night and the below zero temperatures turned the tiny droplets of water into a beautiful work of art, resembling a fern. I quickly get out of the car to take a photo and turn on the wiper to give it a couple of quick swishes and my boy and I are off to school. Winter has made itself comfortable here in New Jersey and while snow days have been few and far in between, the early morning frost has been a regular visitor.

As I drive back home after dropping the kiddo off at school, I suddenly have this urge to make myself a cup of tea the moment I get home..but not the simple one I am used to drinking. I want to sip on a more aromatic version, one that is steeped in milk and sugar and has a hint of ginger and cardamom, giving it that heady smell that easily transports me to some cold evenings in my hometown of Calcutta, railway stations, the joy of stopping at one of the many tea stalls scattered throughout this grand old city for a refreshing sip of the city’s famous ‘bhaar cha(bhaar– Bengali for handmade tea cups that are typically made of clay and have been used for serving ‘cha’ -Bengali for tea, that is sold on the streets throughout India and definitely Calcutta, where Bengali is the native language).

e2fe0202-10e4-447f-b157-a5d19ae2c195This is what bhaars look like in a typical tea stall in Calcutta. Notice some plastic jars to the right of the photo- these usually hold biscuits and other tidbits to accompany the cha that keeps boiling (see the big pan) for as long as the stall remains open to never return a customer. These are rustic road side tea stalls and cater to people from all walks of life. The tea is then poured into kettles like the ones seen here and it goes around filling up these tiny bhaars.

 

I hear from friends and family that bhaars are rapidly disappearing from the streets, railway stations, train cars and even street corners and getting replaced by the awful plastic everywhere in India. My city is no exception but I hear she still perseveres; probably an example of its unshakable love for the quintessential past that gets reflected in the contemporary lifestyle of the youth and creates a unique juxtaposition of tradition and modernity.

Calcutta has been called ‘a city with soul’ (Vir Sangvi) and I couldn’t agree more. Not because it is my city, my birthplace, a place that has seen me through my best and worst and embraced me with a warm hug every time I have visited it in the last 13 years but because it is true. As true as the sun that rises everyday. There is a warmth of emotions that reigns supreme and lets you drown in the genuineness of passion. And the clay cups, the bhaar’s are a testament to that. The often rickety benches at these tea stalls have been a seat of powerful discussions about art and culture, about sports ranging from the gully cricket to that played by the likes of Gavaskar and Viv Richards, about political ideologies that have had people miss their last bus for home. When you walk along the side walks of Calcutta, you might find, in some, such bhaars crunching under your foot. You see, it is said and believed that after slurping on that aromatic concoction, people smash it on the ground to return the clay to the earth from which it was made. I have never done that myself as every tea stall has a bin meant for throwing the bhaars there, but I have surely stepped on broken clay pieces a great number of times. While it does not speak to the ‘keep your city clean’ banners and posters that are seen splashed all over the city, it certainly speaks to the emotional side of bhaar cha lovers.

If you ever visit my beautiful city or any other lovely city in India, you should try sipping on this tea, that aside from being intoxicating, also has an earthy flavor distinctive of its holder that may or may not transport you to the bygone days but which would definitely make you pause a bit. And if you are lucky, you might get to experience that on a rainy day when that earthy smell of the rain will act as the perfect setting for your bhaar cha experience.

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The sweet concoction that is far superior to any chai tea/ masala chai that is sold in the supermarkets and cafes in the Western World and I say this not just out of my love for this! These photos were taken by my brother yesterday of the local tea stall near my parents’ flat in Calcutta. Thank you, my dear brother:)

 

I digress.

The well heated kitchen of our apartment about 8000 miles away from the streets of Calcutta is not a place for that experience. Nor are the cups. But I still made that tea and while it lacked the heady smell of the rain, or that of the kettle that is usually black from being on the stove all day long, as boiling milk and tea pour down the sides, it was satisfying nonetheless. The western world has a version of this tea “the masala chai”or the “chai tea”, but the bhaar cha of Calcutta differs.

So, as I was pondering about what to share with you on my first post at Cook, Eat, Repeat and what to hear from you about, I could not think of anything better than drinks that comfort you, that transport you to a different place maybe, that bring joy to you, that you cherish occasionally. It maybe something that you sip on everyday or something that is reserved for special days. Or something that you stir up with memories from days gone by. It could be anything. Anything that makes you smile.

Please share your own memory, an anecdote or just the recipe of your favorite drink or drinks and let’s all toast to a wonderful New Year!

Here’s the recipe for two cups of Calcutta style ‘bhaar cha’. I must note that there are quite a few versions of this and so to claim that this is THE ‘bhaar cha’ will be incorrect. Many also add cloves and cinnamon.  Tea that is typically sold as “Chai Tea or Masala Tea” here in the Western World  is similar to the more aromatic version with cloves and cinnamon. But this recipe is a much lighter, yet fragrant enough version. I, for one, do not like the smell of clove or cinnamon in my tea and hence always omit those when making myself a cuppa! So, if you are like me too, go ahead and give this a try and I hope you won’t be disappointed.

Here’s how you make it

Serving size – 2 cups
Total Time  –  About 10-12 mins

Ingredients–   Lipton Tea bags: 4

                Water: 1 cup

                 Milk: 1 cup

                 Cardamom: 2 pieces

                 Ginger: a quarter inch, smush it a little with the back of a spoon.

                Sugar: 3 tsps (less or more depending on your sweet tooth)

Method  –  Add water in a saucepan and to it, add the cardamom and ginger. Let it boil on the stove top for 3-4 mins on a low flame so that the flavors from the spices are released. Increase the heat and bring the water to a boil.  This may take another minute or so. Then, add the milk and carefully let it bubble. Add the tea bags (I cut open the tea bags and pour out the tea into the saucepan) and sugar and boil on high for a quick minute till the liquid is almost about to pour out of the pan. Lower the heat and partially cover the pan with a lid and let it simmer for about 3-4 mins. You have to watch it carefully so as not to let the tea spill over and leave you with a very sticky saucepan and stove top. You will notice that the tea might change color from a brown to a darker brown (almost orange-ish). Strain it. Let it cool a bit and taste for sweetness.

You might have to make it a couple of times to get the perfect balance of sweetness from the sugar and the flavor from the spices. Neither should be overpowering!

As I had mentioned previously, this is a version of the Calcutta “bhaar cha” that I prefer…a bit subtle yet flavorful enough to be enjoyed on a cold day:)

I remembered to take a photo only after I had taken quite a few sips!

 

This is a monthly challenge so you will have the whole of January to share anything you like on your favorite drink/s. You are more than welcome to share more than just one drink recipe! I will be posting through the month about drinks that are my favorite and I am looking forward to hearing from you. What’s your favorite cocktail? What do you like to drink after a stressful day? Is there a special drink that is reserved for your most important people? What’s your favorite beverage from your childhood days? What’s your favorite holiday drink? Are you a tea or a coffee person? It can be anything! The recipes don’t necessarily have to be original as long as you share them with due permission from whose the original recipe is/ share the link to the blog/website you are sharing the recipe from.

Here’s how to participate…pretty much standard stuff!

  • Create your own post with your recipe, story, photosanything that you might wish to share that represents the theme of the month.
  • Create a pingback (link to this post) or maybe leave a link in the comment section.
  • Join whenever you can!
  • Visit some of the other posts shared.

Cheers and thanks for stopping by!

 

For a cold-ish night- Chicken & Gravy

   I am glad that Fall is here…well almost here. It is getting harder to get up in the mornings and that desire to cover myself up with another light blanket and just be cozy for a few extra minutes, is getting harder to fight. The dazzling blue sky, crisp air and that autumn smell is enticing and while it feels tricky to calculate in how many layers to dress up the little guy for school, it is a happy feeling overall. Till winter shows up.

    I have written on a similar topic before as well and you can read that here but I get this urge to write a bit more around this time of the year. You see it’s ‘Durga Pujo’ time back in Kolkata and few other parts of India and the Bengali in me still yearns for it, in spite of being in this country for a good number of years. And that longing does not go away. I get super nostalgic and reminisce till it almost hurts a bit and at the same time makes me ecstatic and sometimes, I chew off the good man’s ears with favorite memories from that time. My kids have not reached that age yet where they will understand that frenzy and since we live in a land far away, I doubt they ever will. For them the excitement of Halloween and Christmas will always be a bit more and that’s probably okay. My son does get excited though about getting dressed in Panjabi (or Kurta– the traditional attire for men in India) and going to see Goddess Durga and Her full Family, all decked up! He loves the general merriment, especially the beating of the dhaak ( a membranophone instrument from India) that is almost ethereal and one of the most awaited sounds for every Bengali around this time back in Kolkata. And that makes me happy. So, while it is quite different here physically, in my mind I keep taking short trips to past Pujos during this time. That’s the wonderful thing about weaving memories…they remain for you to enjoy and cuddle in whenever you want to.

   New Jersey nights are different from the glittery glamour of Pujo nights back home. They are quiet and offer a very different symphony. Chirps of crickets, occasional rustling of leaves, a solitary car alarm breaking the sound of silence in the neighborhood. They are colder too. The intoxicating smell of the shiuli (night-flowering jasmine) does not fill up the senses here but the reds, yellows, and oranges of the leaves sure make for a visual treat. While we do stir up Bengali delicacies during this time of the year, Fall also heralds the beginning of trying various casseroles, one pot dishes, hearty soups, ramens and similar comfort foods! And that gets me scouring the internet for inspirations and recipes and firing up the stove eventually. A couple of nights ago, I had this desire to have some chicken and gravy, something that I have somehow never made before and after going through a handful of recipes, I found one from https://thesaltymarshmallow.com/one-pan-smothered-chicken/. I made a couple of minute alterations and I will note them in red in the recipe below. It was super delicious and an instant hit even with my little guy who is a picky eater! I am sharing the recipe here and I hope you get to try it sometime and enjoy it as much as we did.

One Pan Smothered Chicken

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4
Author: Nichole

Ingredients

  • 6 Slices Bacon, Diced
  • 2 Pounds Chicken Thighs, Bone in and skin on
  • 1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 Teaspoons Garlic Powder
  • 2 Teaspoons Onion Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Paprika
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Pepper
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Stick Butter, Divided
  • 3 1/2 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 Cup Milk

Instructions

  • Cook the diced bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate and set aside. (I did not have bacon)
  • While the bacon is cooking, mix together the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning in a shallow bowl or dish.
  • Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels and dredge the chicken on each side into the seasoned flour until coated. Shake off any excess flour and set the flour mixture aside for later. (Also, I did not have chicken thighs and I had to use drumsticks and the cooking time was a little longer. Check for internal temperature of 165F. I had also marinated the chicken earlier with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, a little bit of chipotle mustard and a little bit of mayonnaise)
  • Once the bacon is removed from the pan, add half of the butter to the pan and allow to melt.
  • When the butter is melted, add the flour coated chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes per side until golden brown.
  • Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.
  • Add the remaining butter to the pan and allow it to melt.
  • Sprinkle one cup of the remaining seasoned flour to the pan and whisk for 1 minute until the butter and flour are well combined.
  • Gradually whisk in the chicken broth and milk until gravy is smooth.
  • Return the cooked chicken and bacon to the pan.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

 

   The good man made some mashed potatoes that was super smooth and yummy too. We had this with seasoned quinoa (and by seasoned I mean I had added salt, paprika and lemon-pepper powder to the water when the quinoa was cooking). We enjoyed the dinner as a family and even our 10 month old joined us in her high chair, squished some of her orange puffs and made various noises, which according to the little guy was her trying to join in the ‘grown up’ conversation we were having!

 

 

   And as I went to bed that night and drifted away to sleep, the festive nights of Kolkata seemed to be a world away, and the gentle lullaby and the humming of the pedestal fan were the only sounds breaking the lull of a sleepy house.

 

[I don’t know the name of this tree or the flower, but this look reminded me of the Shiuli phool (Bengali for flower) back in India that blossom during these autumn months and a whiff is enough to tell you that Pujo is here.]

 

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you are weaving memories that will keep you warm and snuggled, wherever you find yourself.

Pasta Salad

   My good man and I are both enthusiastic and enterprising when it comes to trying food that is different from what we grew up eating back in India ( which is so different from the food that is served in the Indian restaurants outside of the country, all around the world…more on this some other time!). Having lived in this country that has come to become our home, our platters and tummies have gradually added more variety and as a result, English breakfasts,  burritos, casseroles, salads, ramen, donburi, jambalaya, pastas, pies are some of the things that can be found on our dinner menu alongside traditional Bengali and north Indian food.

   While I still occasionally find myself lurking in the recipe book section on a trip to the bookstore- that special smell and feel of books…ahhhhh, what an unparalleled feeling- food blogs from around the world have brought every conceivable cuisine to our smart phones and tablets and that makes ‘whipping up’ something with a difficult name, sound doable by amateurs like us!  Food bloggers share their love and passion, the warmth of their hearth with the rest of us and establish this connection, probably unknowingly, that bridges gaps between languages and cultures and we all become part of this milieu which nourishes and nurtures.

   It has been long since I shared recipes (on a more or less regular basis) and that ends today! After a brief hiatus, we have again started trying out different recipes and I am sharing a simple pasta salad recipe from Pinch of Yum that I recently made for a group of lovely ladies. It is so so easy and I am sure you all have made this many times, without or with alterations to suit your taste buds! No matter which way you make/ have made… I hope you get/got to share it with those close to your heart.

I made this with minute alterations ( which I have noted in red). It was an instant hit and I am sure you will not be disappointed as well🧡

 

 RECIPE FROM PINCH OF YUM

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound uncooked pasta – I like rotini!
  • 3 cupcherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese balls, cut in half
  • 1 lb. salami or summer sausage, cut into cubes (I did not use this as a couple of my friends were vegetarian)
  • 3/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced
  • 3/4 cup pepperoncini (optional, but do it)
  • 1/2 cup sliced red onion
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Italian pasta salad dressing:

  • 1 1/2 cupolive oil
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar (white vinegar or red wine vinegar work)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespooncoarse sea salt (yes, tablespoons – see notes!) (I did not have this, so I went with regular salt)
  • 2 cloves garlic (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons each dry oregano and dry basil
  • black pepper to taste
  • fresh herbs if you want! sometimes I add fresh parsley, basil, or chives.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Cook pasta according to package in salted water for more flavor. Allow to cool slightly and toss with a little oil to prevent sticking.
  2. Blend up the dressing, or shake together in a jar.
  3. Toss all ingredients together! I like to use about three-fourths of the dressing, and then I save the rest of the dressing to add to my leftovers.
  4. Keep in the fridge for 2-3 days. I think it actually tastes best the day AFTER you make it.

Salt FYI: Please note that the amount written is for COARSE sea salt. If you are using fine table salt, start with 2 teaspoons and add more to taste. The dressing itself will be very salty. Like, too salty for a normal salad. But in this recipe, that’s what we want! That dressing is going to get tossed with an entire pound of plain pasta, as well as a whole lot of fresh unseasoned vegetables, and it will taste delicious once it’s all tossed up.

 

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Hope you give this a try and as always, thanks for stopping by!

Is it Fall already

   A couple of days ago when I walked into one of my very favorite home decor stores, what seemed like a gazillion pumpkins and Halloween decorations, stared at me from every other rack and I actually heard myself say- “Wait…what?” And I thought to myself how did summer get away from me?  When I walked out at around 8 the setting sun had lent a fiery glow to the sky that had dark grey clouds looming and I realized that the days had indeed gotten shorter and we were not very far from the colder months.

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   Having lived in India for the most part of my life, I am used to the heat and humidity, that is also characteristic of summers here in New Jersey but I cannot say that I like it. I never liked it back in India as well. I find it very difficult to be outside on hot summer days when ideally I should be soaking up as much sun as possible because such days last only for a really short period. It is good for the kids too as they can run around outside as much as they want, splash in the pool and be kids in general! Sunscreens and water bottles are all that you need. This is in stark contrast to the months that follow where they need to be bundled up in 5 layers of clothing and make more- than -desirable visits to the pediatrician’s office, that is sadly almost a routine during those 6-7 cold-ish and cold months of the year! But autumn, I love..who doesn’t! The celestial blue that makes for the perfect backdrop for the vibrant oranges, yellows and reds of the leaves, that crisp autumn breeze which makes you want to sip on a cup of hot chocolate and the  typical autumn smell…are some of the things that fill me with warmth from the inside during these months that portray Nature on the cusp of transition.

   Every year I plan to take photos to celebrate this beauty that is fiery and transcendental and I am never sure if I captured the moments I wanted to. This year I have a different plan. I have made a sort of ‘list of photographs’ I would ideally like to take to capture Fall in all its resplendence and festivities and am keeping my fingers crossed! Here is my list…would you like to add something to this? What do you think of this idea? Does it look too structured? It does to me and is quite opposite to the spontaneous nature of the way I take photos.  That’s why I am a bit curious too to see if I am able to follow this plan through and at the same time maintain a bit of spontaneity. Only time will tell!

Here it goes-

  • A pile of leaves
  • A tree in full bloom (with colored leaves)
  • Three trees with orange, red and yellow leaves (separately)
  • That brilliant blue sky
  • Bare branches
  • Pumpkin/Jack-o-Lantern
  • Halloween Decorations
  • A beautiful sunset or sunrise
  • A solitary leaf
  • Fall decor
  • Halloween celebration at my son’s school
  • Trick or treat
  • Thanksgiving
  • A favorite family dessert or meal (with recipe)
  • Indian celebrations of Durga Puja, Diwali and Bhai-Phonta (more on this in a separate post) that take place during the fall months
  • My family

   All this thinking about fall made me bake a chocolate cake last night and it was from here…a very easy and super moist cake (I used cake flour and not all purpose flour). And my son decorated it! The apartment smelled really nice and for a moment I could not help but think about that first feel of a crisp autumn day. Not that I am waiting for the cold months to come because when the snowy days seem to have no end in sight, I get jittery then and eagerly wait for spring to come! My son however is excited for his Halloween costume and this year he gets to dress his little sister too and there are many options apparently that he has been exploring for her:) He is waiting for Durga Pujo too when he will get to dress up in his Punjabi/Kurta (the traditional Indian attire for boys/men). And as I tucked him into bed last night, we talked about going apple picking and taking a hayride and he wondered if his Baba would have to get on top of an apple tree to get the juiciest apples like Peppa Pig’s daddy had to!

 

 

Thanks for stopping by!

 

Chicken Avocado Salad

   Winter, this year, has been strange here in Jersey. We did not get much snow ( I am not complaining about that even a bit!) but we have been getting a lot of  rain and gloomy damp days which is making this winter seem especially depressing, weather wise. I say weather wise because indoors it has been spirited, colorful and giggly as we welcomed our baby girl in November. The four year old has been the best big brother and along with my parents, who have been the ‘cannot-be-put-into-words’ blessing one could hope for during such times, it has been a vibrant winter!

   My Ma’s home cooked meals have kept our bellies full and our souls fuller. We got to enjoy delectable “Bangali ranna” (Bengali food) every day and it refreshed so many memories from when I was growing up. Hearing them talk fondly of the by gone days has made me appreciate life and all that I had and have a bit more. Nostalgia is a good thing.

   Yesterday, I decided to make myself a salad for lunch simply to see if I remembered how to! And I kid you not when I say this because I have not had anything to do with the kitchen (except for baking a couple of cakes and brownies) for these past five months and now that the time has come for my parents to go back to Kolkata, Neel and I will have to fend for ourselves! And salads are going to be my go-to stuff for lunch. So, I made a chicken avocado salad that turned out to be pretty good and I am sharing that with you today. This is a simple salad and I am sure you have had this or a version of this more than once!

Ingredients:

  1. 4 cooked chicken tenders, chopped. (you can use 2 medium chicken breasts, or 1 big too).
  2. 1 ripe avocado, pitted and diced.
  3. 1/2 cup roasted corn (I used from the can).
  4. 1/2 cup of finely cut red peppers.
  5. 1/4 cup finely cut yellow onions (You can use either red or yellow…I did not have the red ones).
  6. 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  7. 1/2 cup olives (pitted)
  8. About 2 cups of spring mix.
  9. 2 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice (you can use lime juice too).
  10. 2 tbsp Olive oil.
  11. A handful of walnuts
  12. 2 tbsp ranch dressing (optional)
  13. Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Putting it together:

I cooked the chicken tenders on stove top in a little bit of vegetable oil (I had marinated the chicken tenders for about 15 minutes with a little bit of salt, 1/2 tsp of paprika, 1/4 tsp of garlic powder, 1 tsp of lemon pepper powder and 1 tsp of olive oil. I sprinkled a bit of flour on the chicken right before cooking…it gives a nice brown coating). And then after it cooled down a bit, I chopped it up and put it along with all the other stuff in my big brown salad bowl and chomped it up while cradling a semi sleeping 3 month old!

Easy- peasy lemon squeezy!

P.S. I had it today with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing instead of ranch and it tasted even better. You can also add chopped walnuts if you want ( I added this to the list of ingredients).

 

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Red Velvet Cake

    By now, my love for baking and my LOVE for all things sweet has been fairly established! And so when the sudden onslaught of all things bright and red hit me while grocery shopping a few days ago as Valentine’s Day was around the corner, I decided to bake the quintessential  red cake- The Red Velvet Cake!  As someone who has never been much of a ‘Valentine’s Day’ person, it was my way of celebrating  the day with my loved ones.

   I have always wanted to have a red velvet cake and it might come as a surprise to many that I have never had one till before last week! Something about the bright red and white has always had my attention and yet I never had the opportunity to have one. As strange as it might sound, it is true as the rich and gooey chocolate cakes have always triumphed over the pretty red one when it came down to choosing one, every single time. And I have always believed I would have it the ‘next time’!

   And so, that ‘next time’ finally presented itself last week and I found this wonderful recipe from https://www.modernhoney.com/red-velvet-cake/ by Melissa Stadler. It was easy to make and just perfect to taste. I am posting the original recipe here and I hope you will enjoy it as much as my whole family did!

 

Servings16
AuthorMelissa Stadler, Modern Honey
Ingredients
  • 3 cups Cake Flour
  • 1 3/4 cups Sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 cup Butter cut into cubes
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 cup Buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup Canola Oil
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons Red Food Coloring may do less depending on preference
  • 1 Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  •  
  • Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 2 – 8- ounce pkgs. Cream Cheese room temperature and softened
  • 12 Tablespoons Butter 3/4 cup, softened
  • 4 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1 Vanilla Bean or 2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract

 

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a standing mixer, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Beat the butter into the flour mixture, one cube at a time. Continue to beat until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, oil, red food coloring, and vanilla.
  5. Add the buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and beat the batter until thoroughly mixed.
  6. Take a spatula and scrape the sides of the bowl.
  7. Spread into two greased 8 or 9-inch cake pans and smooth tops with a spatula.
  8. Bake for 16-22 minutes, depending on the depth of pans. If the cake layers are thin, they will cook for less time than the thicker layers.
  9. Let cakes cool. Run a knife around edge of cake pan and flip over. Frost with cream cheese frosting.
  10. To make frosting:
  11. In a large mixing bowl, cream together softened cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. If using a Kitchenaid mixer, use the whisk attachment.
  12. Add powdered sugar and mix until creamy.
  13. If using a vanilla bean, split vanilla bean in half and use the tip of the knife to scrape the vanilla bean paste from each side of the vanilla bean pod.
  14. If using vanilla extract, add to frosting and stir until combined.
  15. Spread on cooled red velvet cake. Cover tightly.

 

 

Apple Tarts

   Of late, the weather here in New Jersey seems to be a bit of a head-scratcher. It has been bitter cold and we have been getting tired of the number of layers we need to put on when going out and then it rains and brings mugginess and then suddenly a warm 66 degrees in the middle of winter throws wants almost makes it feel like spring! The effects of climate change are being felt more and more all around and I wonder what the consequences of this is going to be on the future generations.

   With small children and older parents at home, we have been having a hard time trying to keep everyone as safe as possible from the snorts and sniffles that seem to be the most common side effect of such extreme fluctuation in temperature. It being winter, my parents who are here for just one more month, have sadly been cooped up at home for the most part. But they don’t complain and are only too happy to be spending time with their grandkids and weaving memories! They have put their lives on hold so that Neel and I can ease into this new phase in ours and my heart swells with love and gratitude for them. Ma makes sure we get to eat all that our hearts desire and Baba makes sure to keep the four year occupied as much as possible with stories and games and silliness so that I can get some ‘me time’ and what can I say about how big a blessing that has been. The six of us look after each other- we cook and eat, smile and have moments of absolute bliss, find happiness in what we have and add to our pocketbook of memories.

   While Ma has been making all her special dishes and we have been gobbling those up, Neel and I (mostly Neel) sometimes take over the kitchen to give her a break and whip up something that she would normally not be able to make in Kolkata. Neel has been surprising them with his kabobs and I have been satisfying Ma’s sweet tooth with the likes of cakes and brownies! Today I made apple tarts in the afternoon and they turned out pretty good. I have made them before but had followed a different recipe, one that I did not remember today. And so, I found another pretty awesome recipe at  https://www.lavenderandlovage.com/2016/03/apple-rose-tarts-mothers-day.html (Lavender and Lovage by Karen Burns-Booth) and I am so glad that I tried this! Thanks Karen!

Please see the original recipe here and I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did.

Apple Tarts

Serves 8 to 10 apple rose tarts
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 25 minutes
Total time 40 minutes
Dietary Vegetarian

       Ingredients

  • 2 x 215g ready rolled butter puff pastry
  • 2 to 3 Pink Lady apples (or any red skinned eating apples)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons apricot jam glaze
  • ground cinnamon
  • icing sugar
  • cake release spray

      Directions

Step 1 Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6 and spray a 12 x hole muffin or bun tray with the cake release spray.
Step 2 Cut the apples in half, from top to bottom, core the two halves then slice each half very thinly; place the cut slices into a large microwaveable bowl filled with water to cover the apples, and with the lemon juice added.
Step 3 Microwave the apple slices for 4 minutes on high, then drain and pat dry between 2 clean tea towels or with kitchen paper. (If you don’t have a microwave, place the apples, water to cove them and the lemon juice in a pan and heat until boiling for 4 to 5 minutes until JUST soft but NOT cooked)
Step 4 Place the ready rolled pastry onto a lightly floured pastry board, and using a rolling pin, roll it out to add 2″ to 3″ (5cms to 8cms) to the length of the pastry.
Step 5 Cut the two pastry sheets lengthways into 4 to 5 strips, or if the pastry is too long, cut widthways – you need strips long enough to place between 8 to 12 apple slices along the length.
Step 6 Brush the pastry strips with the apricot jam glaze and then sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Place the apple slices (peel size up) along the top third of the pastry strips, overlapping them slightly as you lay them out.
Step 7 Fold the bottom two thirds of the pastry up and over the bottom of the apple slices and then gently roll each strip to make a small “muffin shaped” tart – see photos. Place the apple rose tarts into the prepared muffin or bun tray.
Step 8 Bake the apple tarts in the pre-heated oven on the middle shelf for between 20 to 25 minutes or until the pastry is crisp, golden brown and puffed up and the apples are cooked, but not too dark.
Step 9 Allow them to cool in the tin for 2 to 3 minutes, then gently ease them out of tin and place them on a wire cooling rack.
Step 10 Dust with icing sugar to serve; they are fabulous when served warm with ice cream, cream or crème fraiche.
Step 11 Can be frozen at the pre-baked and baked stage. Allow to defrost before baking or re-heating.