November 20, 2013

Fishy Chocolate Cake

One of our friends' child, Z is learning to talk and his vocabulary is increasing manifold. One evening, they came over for dinner, and we were having a relatively quiet evening when suddenly little Z pointed at a tea -coaster and said 'Feeesh'! We all burst into a laughter. That was probably the first word he spoke all evening.

It was Z's 3rd birthday and we decided to get him a set of magnetic fishing poles to 'reel in' all the 26 letters of the English alphabet that were engraved on foam shaped like fish. Keeping with the 'fishy' theme, I baked a simple chocolate cake and shaped it into a fish. Little Z's reaction was priceless, and worth every minute of work that went into it. Here it goes -

Time: 2.5 hours (baking, cooling and frosting)
Serves: 6-8 persons

I simply followed my tried and tested recipe for a basic chocolate cake here, except that I used regular cocoa powder instead of dark cocoa powder. Since I wanted to shape it into a fish, I baked it in a single layer square 9x9 inches cake pan.

1-1/2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature
1-1/3 cups of powdered sugar
Food coloring of choice (optional)
M&Ms (sorted according to color)
  • Whip the butter with sugar into a light fluffy frosting, about 5-8 minutes. 
  • Add food coloring of choice. I did not want a white frosting for a child's cake, so I added a few drops of blue and yellow food coloring gel to get a light pastel green color. Set aside.
Shaping the cake:
  • Once the cake is completely cooled, gently score out the body of a fish. Cut long the score marks using a serrated knife.
  • Place two of the cut out corners along the lower half of the body, to form the fins. Take one of the remaining corners to make the tail. Gently pick up each part and place it on a tray. Trim edges to get desired shape. Attach with toothpicks so the fins and tail stay in place.

  • Before frosting, tuck in strips of parchment paper under the cake sides that can be removed after frosting for a clean finished look.

  • Using a offset spatula, spread the frosting evenly on the cake, starting from the centre and working your way out. Frost the sides and edges completely. 

  • Time to let your imagination run wild. Decorate with M&Ms or any other topping of your choice. I chose M&Ms because Little Z likes to call them gems :)

  • Remove parchment strips for a complete and clean look.

It was a colorful and bright fish, for a happy little 3 year old :)

Bon Appetit! 
Hetal from Houston

November 14, 2013

Diwali Special - Ghughra

It is the festival season that makes us all nostalgic. There are so many wonderful memories of Diwali that I don't know where to start. As we were growing up, we watched Baa and Mom whip up wonderful snacks and sweets for Diwali. The Saat-padi nimki (7 layered salty snack), fafda, mathia and my favorite Ghughra were quintessential and almost synonymous with Diwali in our house. Diwali was the only time Mom would undertake the massive task of preparing them. Ghughra making time for almost like an assembly line - My sister dividing the dough into small balls, I rolled them into flat discs, Baa would fill and close them and Mom would fry them into crispy golden deliciousness.

All through the process, I would be eagerly waiting for that first bite of the Ghughra I'd been waiting to eat since last Diwali! Often, I begged Mom to make it at other times of the year, but she never agreed. I now know that it is an undertaking that she was willing to go though only once in a year! :)

This year, Diwali came a bit early in my house with my parents visiting us here. As a pleasant surprise, Mom agreed to make all the Diwali goodies for me before they returned back to India. Needless to say, we heralded the festive season with delicious Ghughra. Here it goes:

Prep time - 2 hours
Yield - 35-40 pieces


400 grams Khoya/ Mava (room temperature)
1/3 cup chopped cashews
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup pistachios
1/3 cup raisins
2/3 cup sugar or more to taste
1 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg powder

11/2 cups All purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp ghee

Ghee for frying


Khoya filling
  • In a medium pan, roast the mava/ khoya until slightly golden brown and aromatic. Stir continuously.
  • Crush all the dried fruits into a course powder in a grinder. Gently mix the dried fruits with the roasted mava, stirring continuously. 
  • Add raisins, cardamom powder, nutmeg powder and sugar.
  • Stir for 5 minutes till sugar is evenly mixed and remove from heat.
  • Let it cool completely.


  • Mix all purpose flour, salt and ghee together. 
  • Add small amounts of water as required and knead it into a soft dough. 
  • Divide the dough into small penny sized balls and cover with a damp cloth.
Ghugra making: 
  • Once the filling is completely cooled, start rolling the dough balls into small discs, much like puris. 
  • Take a tablespoon of the filling and heap it on one side of the disc. Gently fold the other half of the disc on top of the filling, to make a half moon shape.
  • Now pinch the dough on the end of the semicircle and twist it to seal the edges. This can be done using a fork, too. Just gently press a fork tongs on the dough edges to seal and ensure that the filling does not pop out while frying.
Dough edges pinched and twisted to seal the filling inside
  • Repeat until all ghugras are ready to fry.
  • Fry in ghee till golden and crispy.
Golden delicious Ghughra

I'm glad Diwali came early to my house :)

Bon Appetit!

Hetal from Houston

November 7, 2013

Pineapple Kheer

This Diwali celebration was a little bit different. It was just the two of us in our new nest in Walnut Creek, CA - far away from the friends we usually celebrate with. Its a new place that promises a new life but memories of good times spent with friends lingered ... I was missing fun we all had cooking together. 

What better way to feel better than to whip up some new recipe for Diwali. I decided to make something simple yet new for the Lakshmi pooja. Rice kheer is simple…and pineapple is our favorite fruit!! There you go… Boom! It took me less than a minute to decide to put them together. 

So I looked up recipes online (a.k.a due diligence) and finally thought the best way would be to stick to the way our Didu (grandma) made kheer and then add pineapple to it. After all, Grandma knows best! Here it goes-

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook time : 30-40 minutes
Serves : Should be good for party of 4-6.  It was a lot  for just the two of us, so I froze most of it in small plastic containers for much needed portion control!

Ingredients for pineapple kheer
Milk - 11/2-2 cups (Any type)
Rice- ¼ cup
Fresh Pineapple – ½ cup diced into tiny pieces
2-3 Cardamom pods
Raisins (optional)
Saffron -  few strands
Almonds (Sliced)

  • Soak rice in water for about 30 minutes. Strain and set aside.
  • Heat milk and let it boil. Add pre-soaked rice to boiling milk.
  • Add sugar and stir till dissolved completely.
  • Add cardamom, saffron and almonds.
  • Add pineapple last and simmer for no more than 2-3 minutes to prevent milk from curdling.
  • Garnish as you desire. I garnished with saffron, almonds and freshly cut pineapples.
  • Serve warm or chilled.

Pineapple Kheer

We thought it was different and tasty …pineapple flavor gave the rice kheer a new twist!!!
Hope you will like it.

Happy Diwali!

Ajanta from Kunming, China this time! :P