Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cinnamon Swirl Pancakes

Do we ever need a reason to eat pancakes? Nope. Everyday is a National Pancake Day! Eat a short stack for breakfast, enjoy them for lunch, or make a dinner out a manhole-sized pancake… guilt free… because you’re merely celebrating their existence. How do you like your pancakes? Buttermilk? Sweet Potato? Whole Grain? Fruit topped? Whipped Cream? I don’t usually care for any of that fancy stuff, but I can tell with absolute certainty that over-cooked, crusty pancakes have no place in my world. I like my pancakes fluffy. And sometimes I like slices of banana or berries cooked inside. A good dose of real maple syrup is what I prefer to drizzle on top. Now I am a big fan of ooey gooey cinnamon rolls also for the breakfast. So recently I started thinking about mixing cinnamon rolls and pancakes together… and this is what I came up with- my new favorite pancake: Cinnamon Swirl Pancakes.

You might find three of pancakes stacked in a fancy breakfast restaurant, but I’m going to tell you that for this particular pancake, one pancake is all you need. It’s like eating a cinnamon roll, and no one needs more than one cinnamon roll for breakfast. Or certainly no more than two!

I created a typical cinnamon roll filling and placed it in a pastry bag to be swirled over the pancakes as they cooked. I also added cream cheese to the icing and placed the icing in a pastry bag as well. It makes it very easy to fill the bags if you stand them up in tall glasses.

After pouring 1/4 cup pancake batter in a hot skillet, let is sit for a minute or so, then I swirled the cinnamon filling mixture over top. Once the pancakes bubbled evenly, I flipped them over to cook about 30 seconds more. I plated the pancakes and squeezed icing over top. And they cooked up just like a pancake- fluffy, but with craters of crusty, sugary cinnamon swirled within.
With a side of eggs and some fruit, this dish is a beautiful breakfast fit for royalty which we all are!

Cinnamon Swirl Pancakes

For the Cinnamon Filling...
In a large bowl, using a hand mixer, mix until smooth:
1/2 stick softened butter, almost melty
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon

How to:
Using a rubber spatula to scrape the sides, pour this mixture into a large pastry bag that had been opened and stood up in a tall glass. A large zip top bag with the edges folded over the glass would work too. The consistency should be like soft white toothpaste. Anything softer than this and you won't be able to swirl the filling on the pancakes.
For the Cream Cheese Icing...

In the same bowl that you used for the cinnamon filling, mix together, using the hand mixer again:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 ounces cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
4 Tbsp. milk

How to:
Mix until smooth and pour into a second pastry bag just like you did with the cinnamon mixture above.

For the Pancakes...

In the same bowl that you used for the filling and the icing- no need to be using or washing too many bowls now- mix together:

2 cups pancake mix- I used Bisquick's
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 1/4 cups milk

How to:

Using the hand mixer, blend until smooth. In a non-stick skillet, over medium to medium-low heat, and using a 1/4 cup dry measuring cup, ladle 1 pancake. Snip the tip off the pastry bag containing the cinnamon filling so that the opening is a scant 1/2 inch wide, swirl over cooking pancakes in a circular motion. Continue to cook the pancakes until bubbles form evenly through each cake. Gently flip each pancake over and cook another 30-45 seconds, remove to a serving platter and serve immediately or keep warm covered in a warm oven. Continue with the rest of the batter. Place 1-2 pancakes side by side (too pretty to stack!) on each plate and drizzle each one with icing. Makes 10 pancakes.

Note- Using a damp paper towel, wipe your skillet after each pancake is made. This will keep the next pancake from sticking to any of the cinnamon filling that has leaked onto your skillet or griddle.

After I swirled each pancake with the cinnamon filling, I returned the pastry bag, tip down in the tumbler. This kept it from leaking all over.

Store any leftover icing in the refrigerator for future use.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


I have been in love with these crispy cookies since my childhood. Every year, mom used to make these cookies over Christmas. Our neighbour from southern India, gave all the neighbours this mould! Funny thing is, mom was the only one who was able to get the recipe right and thus, perfect perfect cookies every single time. Others would come to mom to find out her secret of getting this recipe right. Mom always used to tell them to get the oil hot enough and get the mould hot alongwith the oil. That simple! Still, all of them would come back screaming that their rosettes are sticking to the mould, they had to struggle to get it out of the mould and at the end, dump the batter in the kitchen sink! Growing up, I might have tried to make this (under mom's direction of course!) maybe once or twice. I always got tired of holding on to the thin stick of the mould, waiting endlessy for the oil to get hot enough so that I can start dropping the little cookies in it. Frustrating!

After having come down here in Canada, I always craved for these cookies. Mom brought the original mould from from my home in India and also, I found the mould from a Scandanavian store and I was so excited. Needless to say the unopened package sat somewhere in the basement for God knows how many years! I totally forgot about it and kept on asking mom to bring the mould from India so that we can make the rosettes. Finally, during my spring clean up, I found the package and thankfully, mom is here with me. So I asked her to make the cookies for us. She made the cookies and boy oh boy! Within a day, I had about 20 of them! Well, a cookie per year! Not bad eh?!

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup rice flour
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups cold milk(or as required)
A pinch of salt
1 tsp cardamom powder
Oil for frying

How to:

Mix everything to a smooth batter with pouring consistency.
Heat oil to 375° F.
Dip the mould in the oil as well in order to get it hot enough.
Now dip the hot mould in the batter, you should hear the sizzle! That's the sign that the mould is hot enough. Make sure to go only half way up the mould.
Shake the excess batter off, place the mould in the hot oil.
The cookie will loosen itself. If not, use the skewer to loosen it up and drop it in the hot oil.
Make all the cookies this way.

Note: you've got to be patient! First few cookies won't come out easily. You might have to struggle to loosen them up. Just make sure to heat up the mould very good in the hot oil. I place the mould in the oil as soon as I start heating up the oil.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Papaya Salad-Thai & Gujarati!

Thai Papaya Salad

I absolutely love papaya-raw or ripe. Ripe papayas, I love to eat them just like that, sauté them with paprika and cashews or plain smoothies. Raw papayas, I use to make Thai salad or Gujarati style stir fry! We, Gujaratis eat this papaya salad with certain kind of pakoras. I remember growing up, I used to eat this a lot with methi pakoras! Yup, mom always used to make shredded papaya salad, fried green chilies and thinly sliced onions with methi gotas(pakoras).

My red Thai chilies are so good and hot! I bit on one just like that(found out later how stupid that was of me!) and literally started sweating buckets! I instantly thought about making papaya salad both ways and using those chilies in it. I mean, nothing could go wrong with crunchy, somewhat tasteless papaya salad spiked up with red hot chili peppers. For an added crunch, I used roasted peanuts in my Gujarati style crunchy salad with a spicy bite. It was pretty hot with lots of chilies. I just sautéed the shredded papaya in mustard seeds, oil and added a touch of sugar, turmeric powder and curry leaves. And of course, used the salted pea nuts to top it off. I made sandwiches out of Gujarati salad. Just wrapped it up in leftover phulka rotis for our lunch! Tasty!

Gujarati Papay Salad
 Thai style salad was also so good, it disappeared right away from the plates! I might need to use the whole papaya to make just one salad instead if I want to save it for work lunch the next day.

Thai Papaya Salad
1/2 medium raw papaya
4 garlic cloves
2 each green & red Thai chilies
1/2 cup chopped scallions, in 1-in (2.5-cm) pieces
handful of fresh coriander (optional)
1/2 to 1 Tbsp. honey
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup roasted pea nuts & julienned carrots for garnish(optional)
How to :
Peel the papaya and rinse with running water to remove the acid. Remove the seeds and shred the papaya with a grater. Set aside.

Place the garlic cloves and the chilies in a mortar and mash with a pestle until crushed into chunks. Place the papaya and the remaining ingredients in the bowl and gently combine all ingredients by mixing with the a spoon. Serve cold,sprinkled with coriander and peanuts if desired.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cheddar Cheese crusted Chicken

This is my take on traditional baked potato. I love baked potato with sour cream, broccoli and cheddar cheese. It's such warming, inviting and pleasing food. So simple, yet so tasty. I always have been a big fan of boneless, skinless chicken. So is my family. Chicken is such a simple yet versatile food, just like tofu or paneer. It provides a blank canvas we can use whatever colors on in order to make a pretty picture! I happen to grill or roast chicken almost every week. I was kind of bored with the idea of yet another roast chicken as we've had so much roast chicken with different sauces. So I was 'brain storming(!)' and this idea just clicked in. And this dish turned out very yummy. I've found a keeper recipe that not only tastes delish but can be made in a jiffy! I also sprinkled toasted almonds to give it an extra crunch and hubby and baby loved that. They both have very sensitive palate. So I need to make sure my food has texture! If everything is smooth, kind of poached-they are not going to like it. They need salty, sweet, tangy, melt-in-your-mouth smooth and at the same time, crunchy texture. This dish proved to be exactly that.

Cheddar Crusted Chicken

4 small chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, pounded to 1/4" thinness
4 tbsp mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
About 1-1/2 cups broccoli florets
Toasted almonds(Optional)

How to

Heat overn to 400° F.

Spread mayonnaise on both sides of the chicken.

Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Press the cheddar cheese on top of each breast.

Now place broccoli florets and place the chicken on a cookie sheet.

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or cooked through.

Sprinkle with toasted almonds and serve.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Orange Cinnamon Muffins

 Lately, I've been making muffins to go with Sunday afternoon coffee. Muffins don't fit into the dessert category at all. So I am at liberty to make muffins using dessert ingredients with much less sugar. Also I can sneak in fruits for added benefits. I made apple pie muffins. Keeping in tune with cinnamon, I decided to give orange muffins a try. I know oranges also go well with cinnamon. So I fortified the flavour of these muffins with zest of an entire orange and the freshly squeezed juice of the same orange, pulp and all. The kitchen was full of fresh citrus aroma while the muffins were baking. Upon slicing the muffin, the tiny specks of orange zest were indeed very inviting. As I am writing this, another sweet recipe for muffins just sprung up in my mind! I'll make those muffins come Sunday afternoon. Stay tuned my friends!

Orange Cinnamon Muffins

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp each baking powder, baking soda
A pinch of salt
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup orange juice
Zest of one orange

For topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon powder
1/4 cup melted butter

How to:

Preheat oven to 400° F. Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix wet ingredients in another bowl. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir till the lumpy batter forms. Do not over mix.
Pour about 2 tablespoon of batter into paper lined muffin cups. Bake for about 20 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

While hot, brush the tops with melted butter. Roll the muffins into cinnamon sugar and enjoy warm.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day & Lasagna Rollata al Forno

Where am I??  I got a few emails asking me this. I am very much alive! It's just that I wanted to take a little break from blogging. It doesn't mean I stopped making different foods. It was just that I wanted to withdraw myself from everything else and spend some quality time with my family.
I want to wish all my friends a very Happy and Blessed Mother's day.

Rollata means rolls and al Forno, well we all foodies know it means from the oven. Pizza, bread and pasta do fall in this al Forno category. Pasta al Forno is cooked twice, boiled first and then baked. So it becomes tricky to retain that al-dante texture. That's why, I like to cook my pasta for only 3-4 minutes, or until they are pliable if I am using them for any al Forno recipes. This lasagna rollata turned out to be finger-licking delicious. I used simple tomato and basil sauce, with lots of ricotta cheese filling, topped with pizza mozzarella and voila, a great tasting, forever popular Italian entrée was ready for us to devour! To top that of, I made rosemary garlic butter rolls to wipe our dishes clean. Not a single speck of sauce was remaining on the platters.

Pasta to me is a very versatile, easy to prepare dish that can be pleasing to both kids and adults alike. Luckily, I and my family are big pasta lovers. When I am running late from work, I always tend to boil the pasta, toss them with my homemade marinara sauce( I make this sauce for a week and stash the bottles in the refrigerator), paired with salad and some chicken and there we have a delicious dinner. I also always keep French baguette or Italian ciabatta in my pantry. Toast them lightly, drizzle with EVOO and rub the garlic on them. And we've got ourselves authentic Italian garlic bread. No fuss, no mess dinner.

Lasagna Rollata al Forno

12 lasagna noodles, cooked in boiling water until just pliable, for about 3 minutes
1 lb. ricotta cheese
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups marinara sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

How to:

Pre heat the oven to 400° F.

Mix ricotta cheese, egg, salt and pepper in a small bowl. (to make this more nutritious, you can add thawed spinach from one box in this)

Spread 2 cups of sauce on the bottom of the glass dish.

Spread ricotta mixture evenly on the noodles lengthwise, carefully roll the noodles.

Place seam side down on the glass dish.

Sprinkle with mozzarella, cover with foil and bake in the hot oven for about 40 minutes.

Now remove the foil and bake for further 10 minutes or so until the cheese is browned.

Heat up the remaining sauce, pour that sauce on the serving plates, place lasagna rolls on top of the sauce and serve hot with garlic bread.