Thursday, December 20, 2007

Orange Chocolate Cupcakes

I went to Washington DC for American Thanksgiving. Shankar's brother and sister-in-law, Mony and Radhika have a tradition of hosting it.

I was most excited to see the cutest 3 year old around, Sandhya. I had a great time decorating cupcakes with her. Radhika had baked some delicious orange chocolate cupcakes and I made a orange vanilla buttercream to complement it. The icing turned out quite well because of a suggestion to add some whipping cream! It tasted really good. I will have to experiment more with whipping cream in icing in the future. Sandhya decorated them beautifully with sprinkles!
Here is the buttercream recipe:

1/2 cup of butter
2 cups of icing sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4-5 tbsp whipping cream (depending on the consistency you want)
You can add 1-2 tsp of citrus zest or orange liqueur to flavour you icing.

I believe the verdict was "Yummy!"

Congratulations to Mony and Radhika on the latest addition to their family. Can't wait to meet little Gitanjali:)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mehendi Design Cake

Kanchana has always wanted to decorate a cake with a mehendi design. We decided to use the base of the tiered wedding cake I made to experiment. Chocolate frosting was the perfect icing to get the mehendi effect. I think Kanchana did a great job even though she has never decorated a cake before. I told her some of the tips I learned from class about pressure control and bag handling but I think her expertise in mehendi design helped her the most.

We used some pomegranate seeds for the jewel toned accent colour. I think it looks pretty cool!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Class Finale- Tiered Wedding Cake!

I made a tiered wedding cake at my last cake decorating class. It was an amazing culmination of our course. Our instructor, Maria, was so sweet and encouraging and gave us great feedback and tips on how to make different cakes. I am so happy Renu and I took the class. We learned so much about the artistry behind cake decorating.

I used fake flowers on the bottom tier but the top tier roses are made of fondant. The cake was a layer of chocolate and a layer of vanilla with a strawberry vanilla buttercream filling.
I gave the top layer to my friend Subha. She told me when she gets married she wants me to make her cake!
Kanchana and I decorated the bottom layer with a mehendi pattern. It looked very cool. I will have to post pics of it!

If you are interested in cake decorating I recommend the Wilton courses. They are pretty intense for 4 weeks but the skills you gain will last you a lifetime:)


Monday, November 19, 2007

Wedding Gift Box Cake!

I am taking Cake decorating course 3 right now which teaches how to use fondant and make wedding cakes! Our first cake was this beautiful gift box. The 3D ribbon adds a point of visual interest to the cake. The smooth texture of the fondant adds a very professional look to the cake as well. I bought Wilton fondant from the store. It has the texture of playdough when you have kneaded it to a workable consistency. The flowers were cut out with cookie cutters that came in the course package. The cake was chocolate with a strawberry filling!

My friend Priya had her civil ceremony yesterday so Subha and I went over to see her. Congratulations Priya and Arun! Looking forward to the Hindu wedding. Hopefully I will have mastered the tiered cake by then:)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Berry Birthday Cake!

I decorated a cake for Dinaz' birthday last month and brought it to work. A group of us went to her cubicle and surprised her with a cake and a rendition of Happy Birthday! She was definitely shocked.

Maileen helped me with the assembly of the raspberries and blackberries. I think it looks simple but elegant.

I had an idea to try to have some chocolate sauce on the side but it didn't work out (it got burnt in the microwave). I'll have to try it for a party I have at home.

Fruit is a wonderful way to decorate a cake and bring in some fresh flavours. Use whatever is in season and I guarantee it will be a hit. Try it on your next cake!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Moon Cake!

The Chinese Moon Festival was celebrated recently. It is a mid-autumn celebration about abundance and togetherness.

Below is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

"The Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the two most important holidays in the Chinese calendar (the other being the Chinese Lunar New Year), and is a legal holiday in several countries. Farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season on this date. Traditionally, on this day, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes and pomeloes together. Accompanying the celebration, there are additional cultural or regional customs, such as:
  • Eating moon cakes outside under the moon
  • Putting pomelo rinds on one's head
  • Carrying brightly lit lanterns
  • Burning incense in reverence to deities including Chang'e
  • Planting Mid-Autumn trees
  • Lighting lanterns on towers
  • Fire Dragon Dances"
My co-worker, June brought in some moon cakes for me to try. I've been wanting to try moon cake since I saw an episode about it on Chef at Large. Traditional moon cake consists of a filling made of lotus root paste with two cured egg yolks in the middle.

June brought in a modern version as well which is shown in the pictures. The filling is mocha flavoured! I preferred the modern version but both were delicious! The symbol on the moon cake represents the brand. The symbol shown in the yellow circle below is moon cake in Chinese!

Thanks for sharing your culture with me June! Happy Moon Festival everyone!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Cupcakes!

I baked some cupcakes for my team picnic last week. One batch was gluten free and the other regular chocolate. I tried to remember all the techniques I had learned from cake decorating class but I seemed to have forgotten a lot:( They still turned out pretty good though. The rosettes looked quite elegant and are very easy to do it. If you invest in a piping bag and a few tips you can create this as well! Happy baking!



Saturday, September 8, 2007

Healthy Nachos!?!


My version of a healthier plate of nachos was inspired by sprouts. I was making this tasty snack and saw a bowl of sprouts and thought "Why not add a handful!". The result was excellent. The sprouts added great texture to the dish and complemented the tomatoes (which were incidentally from a co-worker's garden!).
My plate included a little bit of cheese melted, some yellow and red tomatoes, a small green chili and sprouts (added after you melt the cheese)! When you are making nachos next, throw on some sprouts. You will be surprised how good it is!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Varalakshmi Nombu-- Nei Appam

Last month we celebrated Varalakshmi pooja at home. I love the alangaram that goes in to setting up the Ambal.

I read an interesting description of the vratham in the article, 'Dawn of Prosperity', from The Hindu:

"Literally translated, Varalakshmi means boon granting goddess of wealth. Married women, called Sumangalis visit each other's homes and gathering together, they sing bhajans while little girls may dance with their friends, or simply chat.
The puja, performed annually is for the well being of the entire family. Married women in the household pray for their family's health, wealth, happiness and knowledge."
The article also explains some of the legends of how the pooja originated.

My mom was given the ambal muham by her mother in law and the pooja has been passed down through generations. She called over some lovely ladies to give them vethala paaku (and some gifts) and prasadam (yay yummy food!). The highlights included nei appam, vadai, arisi kozhakatai and kootu. My favourite was the nei appam which I asked my mom to write out the recipe for.

Here it is!
-----Original Message-----
From: padma sastri
Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2007 8:59 AM
To: Sastri, Savithri;
Subject: Nei appam
Dear Savithri,
The pictures you took were amazing. The way the nei appam flew with the group of invitees seems to suggest it was popular item. Here is the recipe.

Ingredients
1 cup patna rice
3/4 of a cup jaggery (gud )
1 ripe banana ( over ripe is better )
1 spoon elakka powder ( cardamom )
1 cup ghee (nei)

This quantity will make up to twenty five medium size appams.

Method:
Soak patna rice one cup for an hour and grind it finely with in the blender.

Mix in the jaggery and ripe banana and blend well. It should be consistency of dosai batter (pouring consistency )

Add the cardamom and keep aside for five or six hours.

Heat up the vengala appakaaral and pour in one spoon of ghee into each appa kuzhi - fill the depression about quarter way . Wait for it to heat up well. When batter is dropped in it should sizzle like boondi. Now pour the batter with a karandi or a dapara to fill the depression just till the lower rim, do not let it over flow.

A ring of bubbles will appear around each depression. In a minute the appams will be ready to flip over as the inner gooey part pours over to form the lower part of the appam. Each person has their own technique of using a sharp knitting needle to flip the appam, I use a butter knife and fork to push and simultaneously hold it down with the knife. Each appam should look like a mini golf ball .

Cook each side till golden and pull it out and let it cool aside. The ghee will get absorbed. Top the appa kuzhi depressions with more ghee if necessary and continue the process.

I find it is possible to make three batches of appams for each spoon of ghee. It varies depending on the size of the appa kuzhi and batter.

Nei appams keep well for a week , but usually in this part of the world it vanishes in a day or two due to it's popularity! If you are making for just two people I would suggest soaking only a quarter cup of rice and this way you are not giving in to temptation of consuming the delicious appams.

Monday is Gokulashtami and nei appams are one of Sri Krishna's favourite neivaydayams. Enjoy. Happy Gokulastami!



My favourite crunchy vadai! The recipe is on my sister's site Married to a Desi here.


Delicious kootu is also a very healthy option as it contains no oil.

Below are the lovely sumangalis from our community who came to celebrate Varalakshmi Nombu with us.


I made up the vethalai paaku bag for the kids. The adorable Sruthi posed for photographs (we actually played America's Next Top Model and I was the photographer). I filled a bag my mom stitched with lots of fun Kraft products:) I thought the snacks would be just in time for back to school, though I was told they would be consumed before school even started.

Happy Varalakshmi! Wishing you and your family health, wealth, happiness and knowledge!
Here are some more delicious recipes to try:

Easy Homemade Rasmalai
Badam Kheer
Karamani Sundal
Kozhakattai



Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bahn Thai

My friend Tarek is going to Harvard Law School in the fall so a group of our high school friends went out for a farewell dinner!
We went to Bahn Thai which is a beautiful restaurant downtown Oakville. It has a very small sign and large wooden door so it looks like an exclusive place. The decor is gorgeous with beautiful Thai wooden sculptures combined with modern accents. The food was also fantastic. We started with some spring rolls but as per usual we forgot to take pictures and ate them right away.

I had the vegetable curry with tofu (extra spicy) for my main. It was excellent. I know everyone enjoyed their food. For dessert we had delicious banana fritters with mango ice cream. Steve and Jen had the sticky rice with mango which also looked great.

Mai, Jen , Nav and I all seemed to have complementary outfits on! We had a bit of a Top Model shoot which you can see. Good thing Tyra taught us how to "smile with our eyes".

Justin and Tarek show us how posing should be done...staged yet natural.If you are ever in Oakville you should definitely check out Bahn Thai. It is a gorgeous place with delicious food. We give it two thumbs up.

All the best at Harvard, Tarek! We know you will make us proud:)

I'll end off with the amazing Borat shot we took at the end. Chinque.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Le Petit Zinc!

Yes, I know it is August and I went to Paris in May but I still haven't told you all of the wonderful things I experienced there! So bear with me. I promise to entertain you.

Le Petit Zinc in Paris was a very trendy restaurant that happens to also be a Parisian celebrity hotspot. However, when Maileen and I chose to dine there we had no idea how cool it actually was. Apparently we have great taste:)

After walking around St. Germain de Pres for a while, we picked Le Petit Zinc because we loved the look of the patio! We got to sit under the beautiful archway that was covered in lovely green ivy. The interior decor of "Art Nouveau" meets classical elegance was also gorgeous.

The food was delicious. Not much vegetarian selection but it was definitely tasty! To start I had a tomato goat cheese salad with greens drizzled with balsamic vinegar and a toast point with a black olive tapenade (seen in the first picture). I think this was the description: Pressé de légumes confits au chèvre frais.
My main was a grilled veggie platter with peppers, zucchini, olives, greens and much more. It sounds cooler in French: Palette de légumes à la plancha, huile d’olive vierge au jus de citron. It was beautifully arranged on my plate as well.

I still can't get over how good the baguette is in Paris. I ate a lot of carbs while I was there but my days were spent constantly walking so it was a wash;) You can see Mai and I were inspired by the Parisian pashmina trend! We also stocked up with them while we were in Monmartre.

If you are in Paris, make sure you check out Le Petit Zinc. It encompasses Parisian food, art and style!
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