Cook, Eat, Repeat Challenge: A Drink to Cherish – Mango Lassi

Hello!

I am a bit behind my intended schedule but here I am with the second and soon to follow third drinks of the month. Today’s post is about the famous Mango Lassi which will be followed by the less famous (only in the Western World though!) distant cousin of its- Aam Panna. (aam-Mango in Hindi language while “panna” could be called a concoction.)

But before I proceed to the ridiculously easy recipe (not sure if we can use the word recipe even!), I wanted to give you a slice of what’s been happening at this end, though I must warn you it is nothing exciting! Rather something so mundane that all of you have probably experienced it or are going through this in some form or the other:)

Our son turned five this weekend and boy was he excited for his big day! And so was his biggest cheerleader- yours truly;) We were going with a Superhero ‘theme’ this year and big bright balloons and banner and other celebratory decorative items had been slowly piling in the guest room that looks more like a storeroom, if I were to be honest. Everything was going according to plans till 9pm the night before. Our baby girl started crying and soon we figured out that it was not a normal cry but more of a severe distress that had totally thrown her off.  She would cry for 2-3hours at a stretch with intervals of 10-15 minutes, fall asleep for a bit and the cycle would repeat itself.  We figured that the grand day was going to have major setbacks. We contemplated of taking the baby girl to the ER around 2am but the awful weather outside and us finally figuring out what was really bothering her (premolars were on their way through those delicate gums) let us deal with the issue indoors for that night.

A good part of the birthday morning was spent at the doctor’s office and then on our way back, snow squall hit us and it snowed like crazy afterwards. Family, who was supposed to come over for birthday lunch, got delayed naturally and the little guy who was doing a great job of keeping it all together till then, broke down a little bit and asked if no one was going to celebrate his big day. It was heartbreaking to say the least and I looked around to see that a little birthday banner and two balloons brought from the store was all that was there. I hugged him as tightly as possible. Baby girl was still going through that cycle and we as parents were clearly not been able to step up to the game as fatigue was slowly catching up. We remembered at that point that a few months back when our baby girl had turned 1, the big brother was down with asthma and a fever of 103F.  A pattern of sorts?

Anyways, the good man cooked good food as I cradled a very distraught baby and a little upset birthday boy. Family arrived and there was a good amount of jumping up and down from all possible surfaces for the kid and his cousin, lots of car races and other things that a five year old’s heart desires. Which brings me to part two of the eventful day! By the time it came down to cake cutting, the birthday boy was so exhausted that he decided he did not want to cut the cake and started crying. After what seemed like forever, he stopped and we cut the cake and took pictures. And right after, he started complaining of ear ache (which apparently had been bothering him since afternoon but he did not want to stop having the fun he was having!). After another round of crying in which the baby girl joined in as well, family left and just like that, the day was over.

So much for a grand birthday!

The kids suffering so much took all the fun out of everything and made me actually forget that it was also our anniversary! But the red roses on the table jolted my memory back to that and while nothing went according to the plans, I was still grateful that we had each other to fall back on and as long as the four of us are together, nothing else mattered.The next morning was spent visiting the doctor’s office again, this time for the boy, picking up medicine from the pharmacy and getting stuff from the store that would help with the general crankiness of little humans.

 

You probably should not have to read this when you are looking for Mango Lassi. But I guess what I am trying to say is that things always don’t work according to plans and we all know that. It can be disappointing, saddening and many other unhappy emotions.  But we can in many cases, still steal moments from days that unfold in a less grand and ideal manner.

In this case, while we may not remember the day for all the grand celebrations that should have taken place, we will certainly remember it for the little ones’ discomfort and my big boy’s wise words. He was having a conversation with his father while having his lunch all by himself…sitting quietly. His dad mentioned that he was sorry for not being able to have a big celebration and that things did not go as planned,  and without thinking for a second, the little guy had said : “It’s okay Baba (dad)…bonu (his name for his sister) is so small and she needs Ma now and you have to make food as we have people coming over. We are all busy. That’s okay. Also, I was sick on Bonu’s birthday…do you remember?!” There is so much that we can learn from kids. As he is  “singing” at the moment…has picked up these lines from his dad –“Take it Easy….We may lose and we may win though we will never be here again”.

After the absolute madness dwindled down a bit, I was trying to think of my birthdays when I was growing up and could not really remember my 5th birthday. I guess my son will be okay too! But it was very nice to remember something that is uncannily related to the drink of this week…as my birthday falls in the hot summer month of May, mangoes (my favorite fruit in the whole wide world) were always a part of the day…be it as aam panna, or lassi or custard or just slices of that golden/yellow lip smacking fruit! There’s something  wonderfully satisfying about this drink specially in the sweltering heat of the summer and that tantalizing smell of fresh cut mangoes (typically Himsagar or the Alphonso variety) is a matter of million memories.

And so, here goes Mango Lassi…an absolute easy drink to make and cherish.

Serving size: 2, Time- 5-10 minutes

Ingredients-

Mango (Fresh, cut into pieces) 1 large or canned/frozen mango pulp : 2 cups—-Yogurt: 1 cup—-Milk: 1/4 cup—-Ice cubes: as needed—–Sugar: 1/2 tbsp (you may need less or more depending on the sweetness of the mangoes and your own preference)—-Ground Cardamom Seeds: 1/2 tsp

How to make

Put all of the ingredients in the blender and puree! Check for sweetness. You may add a little cold water or a couple of ice cubes to adjust the consistency and make it to your liking.

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Do you have a drink that reminds you of your childhood days?Or is there something that you associate with specific celebration/s in your culture? Whatever it is, I would love to hear from you! You can join in with a recipe or a story or even just a photo:)

Here’s how to participate!

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

 

Cheers and thanks for stopping by!

 

 

 

 

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!

 

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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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.

 

A simple chocolate cake

   My love for all things sweet knows no bounds and while that is not necessarily a good thing, I can’t help drooling at them, especially all things chocolaty! And while everyday can be ‘baking -something- sweet’ day, special occasions provide a ‘justifiable’ reason to do so and make me feel less guilty when I eat the lion’s share (well…almost!) of that chocolaty delight. While I am always on the lookout for such delectable desserts, every year, come November, my search intensifies for recipes of yummy cakes and cookies that I can bake during the ‘holiday season’ that also features my good man’s birthday! I try to bake a different chocolate cake every year for his birthday and while he prefers the simplest chocolate cake, I like the ones that are richer and generally involve some sort of a frosting. Last couple of years, we did the cake his way but this year, I baked him a very simple but at the same time a moist and rich chocolate cake with a delightful frosting on top and in between the layers and I have Rachel from https://thestayathomechef.com/the-most-amazing-chocolate-cake/ to thank! I was looking for something that did not require a lot of preparation and unique ingredients as I knew I would not have a lot of time for shopping, prepping and baking with a new born to take care of along with a soon-to-be four-year-old. This recipe is just that…something that you whip up with stuff from your pantry and under 40 mins…and when you are done, you will have a delectable cake and a very satisfied tummy:)

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(Please excuse the poor quality of this picture…there was a crying baby, an over eager older brother, a candle situation involving  wax that was dangerously close to ruining the cake and a bit overworked parents trying to get the house ready for  guests who were coming over soon!)

 

Here goes the recipe (from https://thestayathomechef.com/the-most-amazing-chocolate-cake/) for a truly wonderful and easy chocolate cake that I hope many of you will enjoy!

Servings: 16 Servings or 1 3 Layer Cake

Ingredients

The Most Amazing Chocolate Cake

  • butter and flour for coating and dusting the cake pan
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 1/2 cups butter softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 7-8 cups powdered sugar
  • about 1/4 cup milk as needed

Instructions

The Most Amazing Chocolate Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 9-inch cake rounds. Dust with flour and tap out the excess.
  • Mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a stand mixer using a low speed until combined.
  • Add eggs, buttermilk, warm water, oil, and vanilla. Beat on a medium speed until smooth. This should take just a couple of minutes.
  • Divide batter among the three pans. I found that it took just over 3 cups of the batter to divide it evenly.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Cool on wire racks for 15 minutes and then turn out the cakes onto the racks and allow to cool completely.
  • Frost with your favorite frosting and enjoy!

Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

  • In a large bowl, beat together butter and cream cheese until fluffy. Use a hand mixer or stand mixer for best results
  • Add in cocoa powder and vanilla extract. Beat until combined.
  • Beat in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Add milk as necessary to make a spreadable consistency. The frosting should be very thick and will thicken even more if refrigerated.