Breakfast, Brunch, Comfort food, Quick-breads, Sweet

Applesauce Bread

It is almost that wonderful time of year when the weather starts to cool and you ( if you are like me) are anticipating fall colors, pumpkin everything and the holidays. In my opinion, the last four months of the year are the best! The food is great, the clothes are cozy and there is always somethings to look forward to each month. Yesterday, morning was one of those “almost fall” morning where there was a crisp breeze in the air and the only thing missing was the smell of cinnamon. So, I decided to fix that and make this simple, but very satisfying quick bread. I had some homemade applesauce (courtesy my mother-in-law) and few honeycrisp apples and so I decided to make this recipe. It yields 24 muffins OR 2 larges loaves. I ended up making 12 muffins and 4 mini loaves–perfect for having some over the weekend and freezing some for later. I hope you had this recipe to you fall breakfast/snack menu!

INGREDIENTS

 4 large eggs, at room temperature

 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

 2 cups store-bought or homemade applesauce, at room temperature

2 medium apples, grated

 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled, plus more for the pan

 3 cups all-purpose flour

 1 tablespoon baking soda

 1 teaspoon kosher salt

 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter 2 loaf pans or place paper liners in 24 cupcake or muffin tins. I ended up making 12 muffins and 4 mini loaves.

Toss the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fit with the paddle attachment and beat until the mixture thickens and turns the color of lemons, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add first the applesauce and then the butter and beat well, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. T

Dump the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a separate bowl and mix well. Stir it into the applesauce mixture and beat to combine. Add the nuts, if desired, and mix well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pans or, if making muffins, use a 2-ounce ice cream scoop or heaping tablespoon to fill the prepared tins. Bake the bread until golden brown and firm in the center, about 1 hour for loaves and 20 to 25 minutes for muffins.

Let the bread cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and set

Serve warm or room temperature. If you can resist the temptation and choose to save these treats for later, freeze muffins individually on a sheet tray, before transfering to a storage bag. For the loaves, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and then with tin foil and freeze.

Food from Travels

Berkshires Getaway

A few weeks ago, we escaped to the Berkshires. This was our first vacation in two years and the first excursion amidst the pandemic. We were lucky enough to get tickets to watch “John Williams-Film Night” at Tanglewood, which really initiated the whole getaway plan. At first, we were cautious about Covid restrictions and were thinking of just driving out for the concert. But, the restrictions had lifted a little bit, we were fully vaccinated and frankly a little stir-crazy from being home. So if you ever manage to go to the Berkshires, here are some suggestions.

Try to have lunch or dinner at Bistro Zinc–I had a delicious Tuna Nicoise salad and my husband had a duck confit grilled cheese. The food was delicious and I managed to get a picture with the “Queen”.

We stayed at the Red Lion Inn, which is full of New England charm. The front porch is a peaceful place to people watch and sip your morning coffee–which I recommend you buy from the nearby Stockbridge Coffee & Tea. The staff is friendly and they have fresh, locally made biscotti– a perfect pairing with your morning coffee.

Before the concert, we had dinner at The Gateway Inn. They have a new chef and food is delicious, I am really looking forward to going back when they have a full brunch menu. The bartender was really nice–they don’t have a cocktail menu, but he will personalize a cocktail for you. For me, it had to light, refreshing and with St. Germain. Also, on their bar menu, there is an Eggplant Caviar which is to die for!

One thing that I like to do after a vacations, is to try to recreate some of the food that I have had during the course of my travels. This time around, I chose something really simple, primarily because I remember enjoying it thoroughly at dinner one night. It was a tomato watermelon salad; and let me tell you, the ingredients might be humble, but when you have been walking around amidst a heat wave, this refreshing salad hits the spot. So, last night, I made it at home and it was just as refreshing and delicious as it was at the Red Lion.

The salad is super simple to make. I used heirloom cherry tomatoes, cut in half, watermelon balls and baby arugula. For the dressing, you could balsamic dressing, but I decided to blend lemon juice, honey, olive oil and basil together for a light sweet dressing to complement the tart tomatoes and juicy watermelon.

I like to dress just the arugula and then sprinkle the tomatoes and watermelon on top of it. If you like crunch, you can add crushed pistachios and almonds. Of course, then best paring with this would be crumbled feta cheese, but we are not cheese fans. I paired this with Sea Bass (recipe here) and it was a quite the elegant saturday night super !

I hope you are inspired by my travels and head out to the Berkshires. Till then, enjoy this salad!

Classics, Dessert, Sweet

Creme Brulee

Crème Brulee–sounds and looks so fancy, and yet, it is by far the easiest dessert to make.  All you need is some good quality vanilla, a small hand-held propane torch (totally worth buying one) and some patience—to allow it cool before devouring it.   This is such a family favorite, that I even bought the wide shallow dishes that you see in the restaurant.  The dishes are not a requirement, it all depends on sugary crust to custard ratio.  If you like a large crunchy top, get the dishes; if you prefer more custard and small sugary top, you can make it in any regular ramekin.  Choose your adventure, but do not choose against this recipe!

Ingredients:

1-quart heavy cream

1.5 tsp vanilla bean paste (yes, this is a lot, but I love seeing and tasting the vanilla beans)

6 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling

Hot water to fill your baking dish.

Method:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large measure cup (or bowl) , whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color.

Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into the ramekins of your choice.

Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan or cookie sheet. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes.

Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator for at least 10-15 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Sprinkle a teaspoon of sugar, evenly over the custard. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top.

Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Crack the top with back of spoon, enjoy the sound of that satisfying crunch and proceed to eating immediately!!

Italian, Poultry, Savory

Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata is a classic Italian dish and husband is a huge fan. He likes it extra briney, which means lots of a capers! So, this recipe is certainly not “classic” or “traditional”, but it is the way I like to make it. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts, thin sliced (not to thin, and definitely not the thick ones)

1 tbsp of butter

1 tbsp of oil

Flour for dredging the chicken, plus 1 tbsp for making the sauce

1 small shallot, sliced

1/2 tsp of dried parsley

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tsp of chicken broth concentrate or 1/2 cup broth

salt and pepper to taste

Capers, as much as you like

Method:

Heat oil and butter in a skillet. While the butter melts, season chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in flour.

Once the butter has melted, add the chicken to the pan and fry till one side is golden brown.

Flip the chicken to cook on the other side and add in the shallots and chicken stock concentrate ( in the picture it looks like anchovy paste, but that is because my concentrate comes from a tube !). The concentrate will start to brown and become granular. Don’t worry! Just keep stirring it around with the shallots. I also like to keep the chicken on one side of the pan and make the sauce on the other, this allow the chicken to get its own heat and prevents the sauce from making the chicken too soggy.

Add in 1 tbsp of flour and the parsley and bit more oil if you think the pan is drying up.

Finally, add the lemon juice and 1/2 water (or 1/2 cup broth, if you were not using the concentrate)

Keep stirring on medium-low heat till the sauce thickens and the chicken is cooked through. You may need to add a bit more water if the sauce thickens too much. Season the sauce with salt and pepper half way through the cooking process (this will take about 6-8 mins).

Add the capers at very end, stir for a few more minutes.

Plate the chicken and pour the sauce all over it. Serve hot!

Food from Travels

Missing the Parisian Bistro

Back in 2019, before the pandemic, my husband and I travelled to France. One of our favorite things to after a long day of sight-seeing and museum-hopping, was to have a late-night, light dinner in a classic french bistro. Ahh, to sit outside on a summer night, nibble on delicacies from a humble charcuterie board and sip great french wine. Not to forget the baguette!! Since we have been locked-up (like the rest of the world), I have been going through old pictures and thinking, when will we be able to travel again?!?

Breakfast, Brunch, Classics

Hot Cross Buns with Raisins and Candied Orange Peel

In my mind, I cannot celebrate Easter without an Easter lily plant ( I get one every year) and Hot Cross Buns. One of my fondest memories from growing up in India, was to buy Hot Cross Buns with my mother, right before Easter and delivering them to my Grandma. While Hot Cross Buns are not that popular in the US and certainly not in my household, I still make them, afterall, it is tradition!! Last year during the COVID-19 lockdown, I tried a recipe without yeast (remember, everyone was making sourdough and there was no yeast in the stores!!), it served its purpose, but this year when I got my hands on yeast and high quality candied orange peels (please spend the extra money to get the good kind like the FRATELLI MOTTA brand), I had no excuse but to make the buns. In the past I used a recipe that made a huge batch and no one would eat them, so now, this recipe is going to be a go to since it yields approximately 9 buns. I hope, someone out there is a hot cross bun fan and will make these soon.

Ingredients

 1/2 cup whole milk

2 1/4 tsp active dry or instant yeast

2 Tbsp warm water

1 egg

2 Tbsp white sugar

1 tsp lemon zest

2 cups all-purpose flour, more as needed

1/2 tsp fine salt, use 1/4 tsp. if using salted butter

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

½ tsp of ground cardamom

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

Raisins and chopped, candied orange peel (I never measure these)

For glaze:

1 egg yolk

1 tsp water

For the icing:

1 cup icing/confectioners sugar

2-3 Tbsp milk (add a little at a time )

Instructions

Heat your milk in a small saucepan or in the microwave until steaming with small bubbles around the edges. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.

Add your yeast to 2 Tbsp. warm water (about 110° F.). Stir, then set aside to proof.

Once milk has cooled to lukewarm, add egg and stir until well combined. (*Be sure your milk has cooled sufficiently, otherwise the egg will cook in the hot milk). Add the yeast mixture. Set aside.

In a large bowl add the sugar flour, salt, spices, and butter to bowl. Using your hands or a pastry fork, work the butter in to the flour until it has broken down a bit.

Add flour mixture to the bowl of your stand mixer and attach the dough hook. Add milk/egg/yeast mixer to bowl. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic, adding a bit more flour if necessary.

Add raisins and orange peel and knead until incorporated.

Remove dough to a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until doubled, about 2 hours.

Remove dough to a floured surface and divide in to 9 equal portions. Form each portion into a ball and place in a greased 9×9 square pan. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise until almost doubled and puffy – 60-75 minutes (note the rise in the picture on the right).

Preheat oven to 375° F.

When buns have risen, combine 1 egg yolk with 1 tsp. water in a small bowl. Brush tops and sides of buns well. Bake for 20 mins.

Allow the buns to cool completely before icing.

For the icing: Add icing sugar and milk.  Add more icing sugar (or milk) as needed to make an icing of piping consistency.  Pipe crosses on the bun and let the icing set.

Serve at room temperature or microwave for 30sec to achieve that “fresh-out-of-the-oven” feel.

Classics, Comfort food, Dinner, Meat, Savory

Classic Pot Roast

When the temperature is 22F, there is nothing quite like a slow cooked roast in the oven. This past Sunday, I tried my hand at making a classic pot roast and I have to say, there is a reason this is called comfort food. I would highly recommend making this recipe this winter season.

Ingredients:

3-4 lbs of brisket

4 medium onions, quatered

4 medium carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces

4-5 medium potatoes, cut into large cubes

2 springs of rosemary

2 springs of thyme

1 bay leaf

1 cup of red wine (pick a nice full-bodied wine, something that you would enjoy drinking!)

3 cups of low-sodium chicken stock

4 tsps of salt

4 tsps of pepper

4 tbsps of olive oil.

Method:

Preheat your oven to 300F

Heat 2 tbsps of olive oil in a dutch-oven. Fry onions and carrots with 1 tsp of salt and pepper each. You are looking to get a golden color on the onions and slight char marks on the carrots. Once they are done, set aside.

In the same pot, add the rest of the oil and fry the potatoes with 1 tsp of salt and pepper each.

While the potatoes are frying, season the beef with the rest of the salt and pepper.

The potatoes will not cook through at this stage, all you are looking is to get a golden color. Set aside.

Sear the beef in the same pot, about 3 minutes per side. All you are looking to get is a brown crust on the beef.

Set the beef aside and deglaze the pan with wine, scraping up all the delicious brown bits from bottom of the pan.

Add the beef and just the onions back to the pot, cover with chicken stock, add rosemary, thyme and a bay leaf.

Cover the pot and cook in a 300F oven for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, add the vegetables back to the pot and cook for another additional 1 to 1.5 hours, till the beef is fall-apart-fork-tender!!!

After a total of 3 to 3,5 hours, pull the pot out of the oven and remove the beef. Tent the beef and let it rest. Remove the carrots and potatoes from the pot, arrange them in the foil-lines baking sheet and roast them at 375F for 20 mins. The will remove the sogginess from the veggies and give them a nice roasted texture.

While the veggies are roasting, simmer the juices in the pot on the stove-top, skimming the fat from the top.

Serve large chunks of the brisket with the roasted carrots and potatoes and generous spoonful of the juices. You will also want a bing chunk of crusty bread and a big goblet of red wine.

Dinner, Meat, Savory, Stew

Pork Stew with Apples, Mushrooms and Sage

I guess you could call then a French recipe, but really, I was looking at what I had in the fridge and sort of threw it together, and it came together wonderfully! It is a perfect fall stew, easy enough for a regular weeknight dinner, yet elegant enough for company. If you make this, let me know what you think, I know I will be adding this stew to the rotation!

Ingredients:

3 pounds of cubed pork (I used tenderloin, but I would recommend pork shoulder)

2 small onions, diced

4 shallots, diced

4 stalks of celery diced

2 small apples, cubed (use whatever kind you have–remember to peel and core them!)

16 oz of sliced mushrooms

6 slices of bacon, chopped

1 tsp of paprika

2 tsp of Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup white wine

3 cups of chicken stalk

1 tsp of salt

1 tsp of black pepper

2 tsp of sage

2 tsp of thyme

2 Tbsp of olive oil.

Method:

In a large dutch oven, fry the bacon till crisp. Set the bason aside.

Fry the cubed pork pieces in the bacon fat will golden, set aside

Add 2 tbsp of olive oil to the pot, and all the veggies. Saute for 10-15 minutes on medium-heat, till the veggies are pale golden and have softened.

Add salt, pepper, paprika, sage, thyme, and flour, and saute for an additional 10 minutes.

Add the pork and bacon back to the pot, add wine and worcestershire sauce, and cover with chicken stock.

Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook the stew till it thickens. This will take about 2 to 2.5 hours. Make sure to stir every 15-20 minutes to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom.

Half way through the cooking process, taste the stew and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

The stew is ready when the meat is fork tender and sauce has thickened. You should not be able to see any of the apples, they should melt into the stew completely.

Serve over a bed or creamy mashed potatoes.

Classics, Comfort food, Meat, Mexican, Savory, Soups

Instapot Beef Chili

It is that time of the year when the weather is cold and raw and the only thing that will soothe the soul, is warm bowl of soup (or stew or stoup). Beef chili can take a while to make, but not if you have an Instapot. I was shocked at how quickly (about 40 minutes) the chili came together and it tasted like it had been cooked for hours!! This is the recipe, that really convinced me that the Instapot was a great investment (although, I got mine from my in-laws, so kudos to them!). Everyone, has a preference for chili, but this is how I make mine.

Ingredients:
2 medium onions, chopped

2 medium green pepper, chopped

2 medium jalapenos (or more if you like it spicy) sliced into rings

1.5 pounds of ground beef

1, 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes

1 cup of chicken stock

1 can of kidney beans

4 tsp of minced garlic

2 Tbsp of cumin

3 tsp of chili powder

1 tsp of cayenne powder

2 tsp of salt

1 tsp of ground black pepper

1/4 tsp of cinnamon

2 tsp of olive oil

Method:

Turn the Instapot ON to the saute setting.

Add olive oil and ground meat to the pot. Saute till brown. Drain off any excess fat (this will depend on the fat content of the ground beef. I used 90/10 and there was very little fat to drain).

Add the onions, peppers, and jalapenos to the pot and saute till the veggies soften.

Add all the spices and continue to saute for an additional 7-10 minutes.

Turn off the sautee setting and add in the stock, beans, and the crushed tomato.

Cook the chili using the “Pressure Cook” setting on “High” for 30 mintues.

Your chili is ready

Serve with your choice of fixings. We like to keep it simple and eat the chili with corn chips.

Lifestyle

Wedding Cake

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The highlight of this pandemic was when two of my dearest friends got married!!!  To add to the joy, they trusted me with baking their wedding cake!  WHAT AN HONOR!!!  For their intimate, COVID-compliant wedding, they wanted a small wedding cake and cupcakes for their guests–keeps the sharing safe.  For the main cake, the bride and groom requested a white cake filled with lemon curd and raspberry preserves and covered with a vanilla bean frosting.

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For the cupcakes, they requested a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting and a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting.

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I had some extra white cake batter leftover, so I turned them into cupcakes with a lemon frosting–not shown in the picture here.  The lemon cupcakes tasted great but did not meet my “picture worthy” standard–note to self, never add sliced blackberries to a pale lemon frosting–it will bleed and turn purple!!!

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