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Hearts in the Right Place – An Appeal for Help & Heart (y) Centered Cupcakes

The hoopla for Valentine’s day is hard to miss. I’ve never believed in making monuments of days and dates. I would like to, like a lot of people, turn my nose up at a lot of what is now the genius of the guys up at marketing who manage to put the pressure on everyone to express your love with diamonds and roses and other such stuff…. but i couldnt this year. What with my writing for a newspaper and all… i had to do a valentine’s day special and i brought out the pink hearts with a vengeance!

On the sharing love bit… if you like me have been inactive (blogwise that is) you may/maynot have heard of the fund raiser drive by this very dear blogging friend called Siri for Vaidehi Ashram in Hyderabad. She is like a woman possessed and it is so inspiring to see how her passion to really make a difference has resulted in this ashram recieving donations from bloggers and readers accross the world. For me who feels emotional even about inanimate objects, i cannot even imagine being alone in this world and not having anyone or anything to call my own. Vaidehi Ashram in Hyderabad is a safe place for girls where they are provided  an environment to live and study and given some semblance of family and community.  The world as it is, is a harsh place, add to that the knowledge that you have been abandoned for whatever reasons, is reason enough to feel battered. But here is a place that will help you and care for you. And then there are people like Siri who dont just sit back and wonder why something cannot be done, but actually do it. Several bloggers are sponsoring beautiful prizes for the raffle and there is really a wide variety to choose from. plus its all for a good cause… You can get all the details about the Fundraiser here and please click here to buy a raffle ticket. 

What can you to to help?

Its as easy as buying a raffle ticket. Each Ticket for the raffle ticket is for $10 (INR 500). Buying multiple tickets will give you a better chance of winning the prize you want.

How can you Buy the Raffle Ticket/s

There is an easy to use link to make your payment. All you have to do is make a payment via Paypal or credit. 

You could also email Siri at info(dot)siri(at)gmail(dot)com to check about making donations in indian rupees.

When you have completed the donation process, please email Siri at  info(dot)siri(at)gmail(dot)com with confirmation of your payment and specifying the raffle prize you are interested in.

Escapades is making a small contribution to this fund drive. A Box of assorted handcrafted Chocolate Truffles made by me. there are 10 boxes to be won and shipping is within India. Code is RF3.  

If you are not a resident, you can nominate an indian resident to receive the chocolates. Chocolates have literally changed the way i think about work, and yes i do this for a living, but i know each piece is carefully handmade and will put a smile on the face of the person who will taste its pure indulgence. I really hope you will be moved enough to do your bit….you have until Feb 25th to participate in the raffle. Goodluck!

Handcrafted Chocolate Truffles (10 boxes to be won) the raffle code is RF3

Back to Valentine’s Drama… and if you forget all the hoopla, these beautiful cupcakes are so pretty, that i couldnt get myself to eat them without feeling bad! if pink and hearts dont rock your boat, please try it with any other colour or shape….

this is a basic cupcake recipe that i tweaked a bit.

Heart Centered Cupcakes

Butter – ½ cup (unsalted at room temperature, if using salted butter, skip the salt)

Sugar – 1 cup (powdered in a blender)

Eggs – 3 (at room temperature)

Baking powder – 11/2 teaspoon

Baking soda – ½ teaspoon

Vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon

Salt – 1/4 teaspoon

Maida – 1½   cups

Milk – ¼ cup

Red food colour – 1 teaspoon

Method: 

In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar till pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well till completely mixed. Add the vanilla and beat some more.
Sift the Maida with the salt (if using) baking powder and baking soda. Mix in the Maida and the milk alternately, 1/3 quantity at a time. Mix this lightly and do not over mix.
Take ¼ of this batter and mix in the food colour. Spread this into a flat baking tin and bake at 180 C for 20 minutes or till a tester comes out clean. Cool this cake, when completely cool, using a heart shaped cookie cutter, cut out hearts and set aside. You can use the scraps for a trifle pudding or cake pops.Line a cupcake mould with liners, using a round spoon, put about 11/2 tablespoon of batter in the liner, stick a baked heart into it and add 1 tablespoon of batter over it. Repeat till all the batter is used. Bake at 180 C till done (about 20 minutes).

Cool completely before serving the heart surprise cupcake! Cut to reveal the heart if needed.

As I write this, there has been an outpouring of grief amongst the blogging community over the untimely passing away of Raji, better known as Miri of Peppermill. I admit that i didnt know her personally. I came accross her blog (it was hard to miss) but i didnt intereact with her much. Never once thought she was ill. She leaves behind a 6 year old daughter and her husband. I wish them the strength to bear their grief. Through all the tributes, I have gathered that she was a vivacious lady who faced life with a beautiful smile and not once let on about her health issues. When I wallow in self pity, I hope to be strengthened by her and her life…. not knowing her, is purely my loss…. RIP.

Recreating Bhutan thru food – Shamu Datshi (Bhutanese Mushroom and Cheese Recipe)

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One of my favourite posts to write was the one I did post returning from a wonderful holiday inBhutan. The beautiful landscape, colours and gorgeous people, not to mention the lovely food we ate throughout the trip was enough to inspire me. Something that is severely missing on this blog, when yesterday I realised that I’d last posted in September.

In fact, funnily I have been cooking and baking quite a bit. What with the extra hours I have on hand because of early rising due to the pooch. Somehow, never got down to making it here and am about to remedy that!

With the weather finally getting a nip and winter deciding to descend on our neck of the woods, memories of the food we ate inBhutanbecame so strong that it urged me to try and recreate it.

We enjoyed the vegetable and cheese preparations almost daily. Ema Datshi – Chillies and Cheese, Kewa Datshi – Potato and Cheese and my favourite Shamu Datshi – Mushrooms and Cheese.

It’s a simple recipe, the most time consuming aspect of this is the chopping of the mushrooms! Because the dish cooks itself in less than 10 minutes!

I found a recipe online and used that as a base, I omitted the tomatoes, because the version we had didn’t have tomatoes in it. I also used Amul processed cheese as that is the only one I had on hand. Am sure a combination of cheddar and mozzarella would be ideal. The taste was almost the same as what I recall. Pretty good for a first attempt at recreation!

Shamu Datshi (Serves 3)

Button Mushrooms – 200 grams, washed thinly sliced

Unsalted butter – 1 tablespoon

Water – ¼ cup

Cheese – 2/3 cup, grated (I used 3 cubes of Amul Processed cheese)

Spring onions – 3-4 sliced thinly

The cheese I used was  quite salty so I did not add any more salt.

Method

In a pan, place the sliced mushrooms, water, butter, and salt (if using) over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook 5 minutes till the mushrooms are cooked. Stir in the grated cheese, and green onion, cover, and cook 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Pour into a serving dish and serve with rice.

That’s it! It’s a fantastic dish to serve for cheese lovers. Makes a great and easy addition to a party table. Can be eaten with nice crusty bread as well, but goes best with hot Rosematta rice.

Thai Style Noodle Salad

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thai style noodle salad

Have been in a blog funk for a while now and i realised that most of the things that i found pleasure in, I have abandoned….and the newer interests I have picked up do not end/ begin with food and so there is less to write here. With all the other stuff that’s going on, meals are the last priority right now. It helps in weightloss if food is not the focus of your life… I’ve learnt that much over the last 6 months from K.

Losing my food pictures because of a crashed laptop also meant that i was more heartbroken than i wanted to admit. It also stripped me of a bank of pictures that i could post here to keep the blog posts coming.

We went on a holiday recently to the Land of the Thunder Dragon – Bhutan. I had friends from college who were Bhutanese and they kept telling me to visit. It has taken 11 years to finally get there and I am glad we finally went.  K’s work has kept him so busy that we hardly manage to spend time together during the work week. Deadlines drive me crazy and bring out the zen like calm in him. Which is ridiculous because he is the one chasing those damn deadlines! I just watch from the sidelines, am supportive and try to be as gracious about giving up our time together. So this was a welcome break. And what a beautiful break it was.


Bhutan is gorgeous. Period. Its green, the climate was chill but pleasantly so for this time of the year and it is spring time, which means Cherry blossoms are in full bloom all over the country. They take your breath away even if you are just walking down a village road. the people are wonderful, humble and amongst  the most self respecting i have ever come across. The children are picture perfect and you feel like sticking a camera in every face you see. The houses, hotels and every other building is similar to look at from outside due to the building regulations in place to ensure they continue to build  the model of the traditional building structures, which use a lot of wood, intricate carving and paintings. the monasteries are beautiful and either nestled next to an icy glacier fed river or clinging precariously to the side of a sharp cliff. And if you think the V king is handsome…. you should see his father!

Choose to drive in the mountains, visit the monasteries, trek through the country or get lost in the colour and essence of a cultural festival. You can also choose to get a massage and soak in a hot tub, the water is heated by placing red hot stones in another compartment of the tub. It was surreal and just the relaxing holiday we wanted.

The food – is heavenly. fresh, comforting and has a homemade quality, just what is needed in a cold country. I was apprehensive about  the availability of vegetarian food, but was pleasantly surprised. Although on the bhutanese vegetarian menu there are mostly only three variations of their famous cheese curry (with chilli, potatoes or mushrooms) with red rice, its all washed down with the best dark rum and coke i’ve have ever had.  indian, chinese and continental food is easily available at most places. the restaurants in thimpu and paro can serve you almost anything you want, from lebanese to thai cuisine.

We went to this lovely thai restaurant called Baan Thai in Thimpu and the food there is so outstanding that it compelled us to return to have our last meal there before we left Bhutan. Its tricky to order vegetarian Thai food, because almost everything calls for shrimp paste and fish sauce. This restaurant has excellent service and is very quick by Bhutanese standards and each dish from the red and green curry, sauteed spinach with chilly and glass noodle salad was outstanding.

Landing back home into 38 degrees C from 0 degrees when we left bhutan has left me craving for cold meals. I tried to make some version of the noodle salad and it was so refreshing for a hot summer afternoon. Its pretty easy to put together and since i substituted ingredients for whatever i had on hand, i would say this is a very adaptable recipe. the sharpness of the lemon and chilli dressing, refreshing crunch of the chilled vegetables and the starch provided by the rice noodles made for a complete meal.

Thai Style Noodle Salad (Serves 2)

1 cup cooked rice / glass noodles (I used rice noodles, soaked a handful in boiling water covered with a lid for 3-4 minutes, drained and immersed in cold water till needed)

1 cup peeled cucumbers sliced like matchsticks

1/2 cup peeled carrots sliced like matchsticks

1/2 an onion sliced fine

1 medium sized tomato, halved and sliced

2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves or thai basil (i did’nt have this on hand) rinsed and shredded

2 tablespoons fresh spring onions, green parts only

For the dressing:

2 tablespoons fresh lemon / lime juice

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon red chilli powder

salt to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon)

In a bowl add all the ingredients for the dressing and mix till the sugar is dissolved, taste and adjust. Add the chopped veggies and mix well. Add the cooked noodles and toss. garnish with green onions and fresh coriander leaves. Let stand in the fridge for atleast 15 minutes to allow the flavours to meld. Serve chilled

Can garnish with some toasted sesame seeds or toasted crushed peanuts, i forgot as i was eager to dig into it.

shopping info :

in hyderabad, you can buy the rice noodles and glass noodles at spar, hypercity, qmart or ruci and idoni

 Edited to add: Its been eons since i linked to any blog event. This salad is off to Fun in the Sun, the summer event at Tickling Palates who is celebrating four fab blogging years!

Sugar and Spice ….. All Things Nice

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If you are in hyderabad, we’d love to have you over. there’s a lot of fun stuff and some really awesome clothes, bags and shoes…spread the word

ahomemakersdiary@yahoo.in

Happy Birthday with ‘Sugarfree’ Kheer ~ Kaddu ka Kheer (Bottlegourd) Recipe

Dear Amma,

you turn a year older today. We wanted to celebrate in style, but you will have to make do with the presence of your children and grandchild minus the exciting vacation unlike the last big celebration. it doesnt take away one bit from what you are. We give thanks for what you have taught us especially about being dignified in the face of the worst kicks life gives you and carrying on, so that life itself relents and smiles on you. You still are my hero. Although sometimes i find you quite a nag, i remind myself I’d better be careful of what I accuse you of, since I cant escape my genes and am turning out to be more and more like you! I wish for you health and happiness and much more laughter than you can handle! There, take that and deal with it… so what if you cant go on a vacation this year, am sure our surprise appearance last night has more than made up for it!

To celebrate, here’s a beautifully creamy yet healthier route to a hyderabadi classic Kaddu ka kheer

Kaddu ka kheer

Makes 5 servings, Time taken: 30 mins

1/2 litre plus 1 cup milk ( i used 3% fat)

2 cups grated bottlegourd (lauki in the north but in hyd we call it kaddu)

1/4 cup raw basmati rice

2/3 cup sugar substitute ( i used sugarfree brand) or sugar

1/2 a teaspoon grated nutmeg, divided (or use elaichi if you dont like nutmeg)

a few slices of almonds for the garnish

wash the rice and set aside. in a pressure cooker, add the rice, grated bottlegourd, 1/2 litre milk and cook for 2 whistles or till the rice is cooked. when the pressure releases, open the lid and mash lightly with the back of a ladle. add the sugar substitute or sugar and the remaining milk and cook on a low flame till the mixture begins to thicken. taste for sweetness and adjust. I dont like overpoweringly sweet kheer, so this is low on sweetness. simmer till the back of a ladle is coated thickly. add the nutmeg and sitr. turn off the heat. let it cool. Serve chilled with a sprinkling of nutmeg and a fel slices of almonds

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