Monday, February 26, 2007

Chocolate-y cupcakes!

I wanted to experiment with boxed cake mix without eggs. I used a box of Betty Crocker's Devil's food cake and it turned out pretty decent. The cake was soft and crumbly. Instead of eggs I increased the amount of oil (from 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup) and added Kingsmill egg replacer (3 tsp for 3 eggs) and water (6 tbsp). I frosted them with an orange buttercream with a bit of cream cheese for tang (my own concoction- a basic buttercream recipe with some orange juice, zest and cream cheese). I put sprinkles on some...my Mom told me to leave some plain because she thought the sprinkles were too childish...I thought they looked fun.

I had wanted this cupcake tree stand for a while. I saw it at Adonia's on Tuesday and it looked really good so I decided to buy it. I think it displays the cupcakes beautifully!

Wednesday's cake decorating class is on cupcakes so you will see another cupcake post soon! I guess I'll have to bake some more because I'm pretty sure Longo's doesn't sell plain cupcakes. lol.

Paneer Pakodas

There is nothing better than coming home to an amazingly tasty hot snack after a long day at work. My Mom made me the most delicious paneer pakodas on Thursday. They were damn good. The batter was crispy and perfectly seasoned! The paneer inside was hot and soft. I wish I had a better picture to show you how good they looked.
(I'm trying to work on my photography- please bear with me!)
Here is the recipe from my Mom (in her own words):

For maavu-covering (I would have said batter)
3 tbsp rice flour
2 tbsp besan
Salt, chilli powder, asafoetida (hing) to taste.

Add warm water to this for dropping consistency (like dosai maavu)

Cubes of paneer-used store bought (lazy, thy name is mom) - those were her words! I swear!
- Drop a few paneer pieces in to the maavu and roll it around with a spoon
- Scoop it with a spoon, 1 piece at a time, take it near the hot oil and drop it gently (heat up any vegetable oil on medium heat. Test it with a drop of maavu. It should spring up to the top with a hissing music!
- Cook both sides until golden
- Drain excess oil on a paper towel
- Serve hot with your favourite chutney
- Variation: You could also put your favourite chutney between two pieces of paneer, then coat with maavu and deep fry. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

WOSS Dinner

Yesterday I went to dinner with some of my friends from high school. Maileen, Steve, Jen, Jason and I went to White Oaks Secondary School (WOSS) and Andrea, Tamara, Samina and I have been friends since middle school, River Oaks (what do you expect, we grew up in Oakville).

We went to Spring Rolls at Erin Mills Town Center. A little tip to anyone planning to go- there is no entrance to the restaurant from inside the mall. There is only one from the outside. So after a bit of wandering in the Mall, Maileen and I figured it out. It was nice to catch up with everyone. I'm glad my friends still make an effort to keep in touch.

I forgot to take pictures of my food but it was pretty good. I started with the cold spring rolls which is basically a salad wrapped up in rice paper. I wanted something light because I was looking forward to my main. I got Thai Green Curry with vegetables and tofu, extra spicy. It was yummy. It was the addictive spice that takes a hold of you and doesn't let you feel it until you stop eating. Then it hit me. Luckily, my mango shake helped kill the heat. I used to love pad thai but I think I've outgrown it now. Shankar introduced me to green curry and I been a fan ever since!

Andrea got a great friend banana dessert. It was called FBI, fried banana ice cream. It was really great with green tea ice cream. Tamara got the mango creme brulee and James (Andrea's boyfriend) had coconut ice cream which was also very nice!

Great night guys! Looking forward to the next one:)

Cake Decorating Class #2

Wednesday was cake decorating class and the project of the week was Rainbow Cake. I thought that after class I would be coming home with a beautifully decorated cake....not so. Who in the world knew that this class would be so stressful! Lol. I was supposed to pick up Renu and go to class but traffic from Don Mills was ridiculous so I was late:(

Basically, the class is to teach you various techniques to use for the different tips. This week was the star tip and the round tip. We learned how to write letters, cursive, stars and perfectly rounded dots. We also learned how to tranfer patterns on to our cakes with piping gel. That is what we did for our rainbows. The only thing is we didn't have time to fill in the rainbows. Renu and I tried to frantically fill ours in but alas, we had no such luck. It was past 9 by the time I got home and I hadn't had dinner so I decided to finsh my cake on Thursday.

I had a lot of coloured icing left from class so I decided to practice some of the techniques I learned on the cake! I think I went a little overboard but it was really fun! I think the clouds looked really cool on the rainbow and added some drama with the height. The lettering was so much better now that I knew how to control the pressure. Plus you need to have the correct consistency of icing to get a certain effect. Stars need medium consistency and writing needs thin.

I tried to take some pictures but they sucked so here are some that my Mom and Dad took which look way nicer. My dad also got my cake for me from Longo's because I didn't have time. Thanks Dad!!

A lot of the techniques are on the Wilton website if you are interested in learning but don't have time to take a class. Its fun and you will really be proud of your end product.

The best part of the story is what happened with the cake. I gave it to my Mom for her to take to her school. She gave it to one of her colleagues who has a very positive attitude, organizes nice things for the staff (wedding and baby shower gifts) and bring the team together. My mom left it in the office for her with a note from her 'Secret Admirer at Floradale!'. Her friend was so thrilled and felt very special. It's nice to know that you are appreciated and people recognize your hard work.

I am so glad my cake brought about so much happiness:)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Butternut Squash Soup with Smoked Cheddar

My friend Adonia is home for reading week from Montreal. I went to her house yesterday and had the most amazing butternut squash soup which she made from scratch! They should serve this stuff in restaurants! The salty smoked cheddar (from Whole Foods!) really added a whole new dimension to the flavour. I think that is what countered the sweetness of the apple cider.

She packed me some to take to work today and I shared it with Rav. I even got some delicious sugar cookies for dessert! The plant in the picture background was a gift from her for my bday! Thanks Adonia- you made my day:)


Here is the recipe she sent me:

-----Original Message-----
From: Adonia Naidu
Sent: Tuesday, February 20, 2007 10:47 PM
To: Sastri, Savithri
Subject: Re: Tonight

Hey girl,

here's the recipe. I used vegetable stock instead of chicken stock , table cream instead of heavy cream and nixed the apple garnish because they were too soggy (and I didn't have the herbs for garnish either) The Kraft recipe puts apples into the base mix and blends them... interesting... I think it would be sweeter. And I added a lotta of extra cheese! Cheese is sooo good...
Hopefully we can bake too!

adonia


Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Smoked Cheddar

MAKE-AHEAD ACTIVE TIME: 35 MIN
TOTAL TIME: 1 HR 25 MIN
SERVES: 4

"Butternut squash and apples come into season around the same time in Vermont," Silansky says, "and they go so well together." But this soup's key ingredient is its smoked-cheddar garnish. Silansky gets his cheese from Grafton Village Cheese Company, a local producer with national distribution that cold-smokes aged cheddar over a maple-wood fire.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
3/4 cup apple cider
One 1 3/4-pound butternut squash—peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice (5 1/4 cups)
4 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 McIntosh apple, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/3 cup coarsely shredded smoked cheddar cheese (2 ounces)
One-inch pieces of chives or thinly sliced sage leaves, for garnish

Directions
1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the apple cider and cook until syrupy, about 3 minutes. Add the butternut squash and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the squash is very tender, about 40 minutes.

2. In a blender, puree the soup in batches. Return the soup to the saucepan and stir in the cream. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.

3. Heat a medium skillet. Add the butter and diced apple and cook over high heat until the apple is tender and golden around the edges, about 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

4. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls; garnish with the smoked cheddar, sautéed apples and chives; serve.

MAKE AHEAD The soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat before garnishing with the cheddar, apples and chives.

Paneer Aloo Achari

I tried out a recipe Dinaz gave me for Aloo Achari. I thought it would taste good with fresh paneer! I was right. I love experimenting and trying new things. It is really fun to create something from your imagination and then see how it turns out.

So here is what I did:

Sauté some onion (Dinaz thinks you should only use green onions), green chilies, ginger, jeera, turmeric, garam masala, salt and chili powder.

Add in 2 diced tomatoes or tomato puree (its an experiment- use whatever you want).

Throw in 1 1/2 potatoes boiled and cubed.

Add in some frozen peas and 2 tbsp yogurt. Finally, add some cubed paneer and let the flavours simmer.

It was quite tasty. Next time I think I will try putting in some amchur and nuts for crunch!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Women's Executive Network Breakfast

I went to a Breakfast meeting held by the Women Executive Network at the Metropolitan Hotel, Downtown Toronto. It featured a panel discussion by 3 women who were part of the Canada's Most Powerful Women: Top 100:





Trina McQueen: The first female host of W-5, CBC/Radio-Canada Director and former News and Current Affairs Vice President




Cheryl Perera: OneChild Network & Support Systems Founder & President




Alberta Cefis: Scotiabank Executive Vice President and Group Head, Global Transaction Banking




It was a very interesting discussion as it featured viewpoints from women in varied positions in their careers. Cheryl is a 20 year old UofT student who developed th OneChild network in high school, Alberta is a Senior Exec at ScotiaBank in the middle of her career and Trina is a Broadcasting exec who was also the first female anchor for CFTO. These women have such different perspectives and gave honest, candid answers about how they got to the positions in their careers.

When the women were asked- "Can you have it all?" the answers were surprisingly candid and were very different based on the phase of life each prson was in. Cheryl, our idealistic 20 year old, said yes. She believed you could and it was about organizing and prioritizing you time.

I really appreciated Alberta's honesty. She told us her life was about choices and she could not always do everything she wanted. Her example was about when she and her husband were thinking of having children they were both very busy with their careers. They were traveling a lot and working their way up the corporate ladder. Neither of them wanted to sacrifice it and stay home so they chose not to have children.

Trina advised us that life is about decisions and sacrifices. You have to make a conscious choice about how you want to live you life and what you will do to achieve your goals. It is unrealistic to expect yourself to be a top achiever in your career and also bake cookies for your children and be the super wife at the same time. You have to make a choice.

Another interesting comment came up in the discussion regarding personal values that could not be compromised. Alberta said hers was 'always be yourself.' That really resonates with people my age. This is when we need to figure out what we want to be doing and what we should do to achieve it. Though our speakers did tell us what they wanted in life was always changing, half the battle is identifying it.

Some of the other key take always were:

- Choose a good boss
- Listen to the people around you- mentors are everywhere
- Be nice to people and keep in touch with them
- You can't always have it all- life is about choices and prioritizing what is most important to you.

Lastly, Trina McQueen had some great advice about her failures. She said the opportunities that arose after she was fired from CFTO were even better than what she had. All of our speakers said that the challenges and obstacles they faced made them stronger.

It was a very interesting and inspiring morning! I'm glad there are many female role models in the business world today that I can look up to and learn from.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Formidable Faust

On Saturday night, Abhi, Noreen, Renu and I went to see Faust by the Canadian Opera Company at the new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. It was absolutely amazing. They have a program called Opera for a New Age in which people 30 and under can get discount tickets to see the opera and gain an appreciation for it. We took advantage of these $20 tickets (which go for $95-$275 regularly) and it was incredible.

The actors and musicians were so talented. The set design, costumes, acoustics, ambiance, everything was really authentic and detailed. There were so many cool stage elements. The stage rotated, things came from the ceiling and other things lowered in to the ground. It looked awesome. The music was incredible from the orchestra to the singers. Even though it was in French we could follow along with the surtitles provided on top of the stage.

The show is produced in such a way that no matter where you are sitting you can enjoy the show. We were on the top balcony and it was still fantastic. My favourite scene was one with this larger than life nun puppet which was being controlled by the actors. It head and arms moved and danced and captivated the audience. Beside is a picture of the theatre. You can see just how huge the place is!

The opera, Faust, is about an old man (Faust) who is sells his soul to the devil (Méphistophélès) to become youthful again. Faust falls in love with a young girl Marguerite and commands the devil to take him to her. There are some entertaining scenes with the devil and the villagers, including the one with the nun puppet. Faust, with the help of the devil, woos Marguerite and she sucuumbs to his advances. This was a funny scene because the devil had to be the wing man and entertain Marguerite's friend who ended up liking the devil. Marguerite then has Faust's baby and he leaves her. Opera is so much more risque than I thought! Faust goes back to see Marguerite but her brother, Valentin, intervenes. They battle, and with the urging of the devil Faust kills Valentin. Marguerite is taunted by the devil and goes crazy and kills her baby. The devil takes Faust away to a witches sabbath and takes him to a palace full of beautiful cortesans. Faust gets intoxicated and has a terrible vision of Marguerite being executed and insists the devil take him to her. Faust tries to get Marguerite to come with him even though they will be eternally damned. She recognizes the devil and says no. She begs God to forgive her when she is executed. She is saved and sent to heaven.

So the second half was pretty depressing but I think most Opera involves tragedy so you can't escape it.

During the intermission we went down to the first floor and looked at all the rich people who had bought the $300 tickets. They looked very nice and really dressed up! We even had a minor celebrity sighting of Peter Kent who used to be a news anchor for Global. We all recognized him but Renu put it all together! We got come cookies and gourmet nuts. I guess thats fancy opera snacks for you.

Afterwards we walked over to The Queen Mother. It was a cute place with a British pub vibe but with a multicultural flare in the food. They even had some paper lanterns up for Chinese New Year. We got some good snacks. Renu and I shared a Spicy Red bean sip which was yummy. Noreen had some Rice Paper Spring Rolls and Abhi had an Goat cheese and arugula salad. We had a delicious triple chocolate mousse at the end. Abhi struggled with her bowl of Mochaccino at the end. lol.

It was such a wonderful fun night and I can't wait to do it again.

If you ever get a chance to see the Canadian Opera Company- do it! You won't be disappointed!!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Cake Decorating Class

Renu and I started our cake decorating class last week. I don't know why but for some reason I thought they would give us the cake to decorate. Man was I wrong. There is so much prep and homework for this class....I don't know what I've gotten myself into!! We have to bring it pre-iced and ready to decorate in class. Class 2 is Rainbow cake. We have to bring the cake iced in sky blue.

I made the icing on Sunday night because it lasts for 2 weeks. I have to admit that we cheated a little and bought our cake from the Longo's bakery. They looked so good and were perfectly rounded and everything. Perhaps next time I will attempt to bake if I find a good eggless recipe. Renu and I went on our shopping expedition to buy all the supplies we needed for class. We bought the main things at Michael's like extra icing tips, cake stand and meringue powder. Then we headed to Dollarama (love that place) for our containers to store and mix our icing and our silicone mat to prevent slippage when transporting our cake!

Wednesday came around and we were all prepared for class. We had iced our cakes and had our kits all set up. Then our instructor called and cancelled the class. :(
So I had a plain sky blue cake that need to be decorated. My mom, sister and I experimented and did some decorating of our own and made it in to a valentine cake! It tasted really good too. Everyone at my office loved it! I'll post pictures of the Rainbow cake from next week's class. Hope it turns out!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Ultimate Lunch

The ultimate lunch is one you don't have to make for yourself. My dad is so nice. He makes me fresh squeezed juice in the morning! The flavour of this month is grapefruit. It is such a delicious pink colour! He even packs it to go for me so I can have it at work. I also get a nice fruit salad and toasted sandwich (peanut butter on whole grain bread this week) too. My snack is pistachios. Yum.

He forgot to pack it one day and sent me an email at work....cutest dad ever!

-----Original Message-----
From: Krishnan Sastri [mailto:ksastri@sympatico.ca]
Sent: Monday, February 12, 2007 8:08 AM
To: Sastri, Savithri
Subject: Sorry!
Dear Savithri,

Somehow I had taken that today is Sunday and I overslept. I'll keep the juice ready for you when you come home. Also please remind me every sunday that the next day is Monday. I am getting very forgetful these days.

Love,

Dad

Be My Valentine Biscuits!

I woke up this morning to a winter wonderland. There was snow as far as the eye could see. I wasn't going to try to be a hero and brave the roads to go to work so I called in a snow day! The schools were closed so Mom was home too! I decided to make something nice.

I saw a cool post on another blog for buttermilk biscuits. I wanted to try it out but I didn't have any buttermilk so I thinned out some yogurt with milk and it worked out okay! My variation of this recipe included spicing it up with some jalapeno cheese and green chilies. My mom also suggested some omam which added great flavour to them! Even Dad liked it!

My Valentine edition biscuits were heart shaped. They looked so cute!

I think it's a great side dish for butter. Heehee!

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Monday, February 12, 2007

JT on SNL...super funny

I know not everyone is a Justin Timberlake fan but the man is hilarious-trust me on this one. He was on SNL and there are some clips on youtube. My favourites are Omeletteville and Homelessville. The Jessica Simpson one is good too (she is 'functionally retarded'). They took off the full skits from youtube for some copyright issues but there are still some left of the dance clips. That's the best part anyway.

Hightlights from Omletteville are JT dancing to Britney's "I'm a slave 4 u" and "dance break." I like randomly saying it now. Especially at work. Well, only to Rav since no one else will understand it. Homelessville's "Soup there it is" was very good too. They make you want to 'bring it on in to omletteville/homelessville.'



Plantain chips

Dad made me vazhakai chips last week. Lightly salted, deep fried goodness. They were seriously delicious. I was so hungry when I came back from work and it was the best snack as soon as I walked in. They are so thinly sliced. It takes a lot of effort and patience to do that. Dad- you are a good cook too!

Don't want him to get jealous because I posted stuff about Mom. heehee.

Look how thin they are!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Caramel Corn Confection!

My mom wanted to give her students a nice treat for Valentine's Day. We decided to make them Caramel corn. We even found these cute little bags with hearts and cupids on them to pakage everything in. How adorable! The kids are also going to get special pencils that say "Happy Valentine's Day from your Teacher." Isn't elementary school the best. You get to have so much fun.

Anyway, we used the recipe from kraftcanada.com but omitted the nuts. Use 1 bag caramels, 10 cups air popped popcorn, 3 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp water.
PREHEAT oven to 300°F. Place caramels, butter and 1 Tbsp. water in large heavy saucepan; cook on low heat until caramels are completely melted, stirring frequently.


COMBINE popcorn and peanuts in large bowl. Add caramel mixture; toss to evenly coat. Spread onto large greased baking sheet.


BAKE 10 min.; stir. Bake an additional 10 min. Spoon onto sheet of wax paper; cool completely. Break apart into clusters

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Brownie cupcakes

I baked some brownie cupcakes on the weekend. They were topped with vanilla icing and a butterscotch caramel swirl. I used a recipe I found on the internet for eggless brownies. It turned out pretty well. I used milk instead of water and I think it made a difference. Next time I will try it with some espresso. I think it will be a good flavour addition to complement the chocolate. I used the heart shaped silicone trays again too because they are awesome.
I gave them to my friend Hanoz for his 25th birthday. We went to Penelope, a Greek restaurant downtown Toronto for a birthday dinner. It was really fun. I had the mediterranean dips platter. It came with hummous, tzaziki and Melitzana which I hadn't had before. It was eggplant based. It also had olives and feta and warm pita bread. One person got this dish called Saganaki- "Kefalotiri cheese flaming with ouzo-opa." It was a cheese flambe! It looked really cool. I'll have to try it next time.

Noreen and Justin were there too! As Justin would say, it was a 'legit' dinner. Rose and John stopped by as well. Rose and Hanoz share the same birthday! We always used to do a group bday jam for them in Waterloo. Ahh the good old days:)








They brought out a nice birthday cheesecake for H. Sandy tried to feed him...awww. I must say, her hair looked so good. I need to learn how to curl it like that!!
Happy Birthday Hanoz! Hope it was a good one:)

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Heart shaped cupcakes

My mom and I spent some time together and made carrot cake cupcakes with a delicious orange cream cheese icing. The cake was good but the icing was awesome. I got these really cute heart shaped cupcake silicone pans that inspired me to do some baking.

The addition of orange was not planned but worked out beautifully! Initially I was thinking of adding some lemon zest to the top of the cupcakes but we didn't have any lemon at home. My mom suggested using orange and it worked out even better! I had picked up a zester from the store just for this. I think I'll be trying to make some candied orange and lemon zest soon.

Making the cake from scratch was a mission. I think it was a little dense because it was eggless. Perhaps more baking powder is necessary. I used a recipe that I found off the internet:

1.5 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 tsp baking powder
1 large carrot grated
1/4 cup milk
pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg (I used .5 tsp mace)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup walnuts

Mix the flour and sugar. Add the butter (melted). Add carrots, milk, baking powder, salt and spices, raisins and walnuts. Bake at 350 F until golden.

The icing is very easy. 1 package of cream cheese. I work for Kraft so use Philly. 1/4 cup softened butter. 1 cup icing sugar. Pinch of salt. Squeeze of orange juice and zest of 1 orange.

Cream together butter and cream cheese. Using a fork is helpful. Add in icing sugar 1/3 at a time. Mix in salt, orange juice and zest. Voila- a delicious icing that is a definite crowd pleaser. I used piping bags to decorate the cupcakes. I think it adds a nice effect.
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