Lifestyle

Wedding Cake

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200808202043513_COVER

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.

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200808202032260_COVER

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200808204537560_cover

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

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200808202020698_cover00000img_00000_burst20200808202025174_cover

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!!!

00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200808202055132_COVER

Appetizers, Lifestyle

Party platters

IMG_20191124_185554IMG_20191124_185512

These past few days I have been going through all the pictures on my phone and daydreaming of traveling again, going out with friends again, and having house parties.  To be honest, I don’t know what I will do first once the SARS-COV2 lockdown lifts, but one thing I know is that I would love to entertain again.  As I was going through these pictures, I stumbled across pictures from a holiday party we hosted, last year, after Thanksgiving.  While I did get too caught up in the party to take pictures of the actual platters, I did have sketches from the way I decided to set up a Cheese Board and a Veggie Platter.  I often like to draw things out before I execute a design set-up.  I started this with my cake designs, and these are my first sketches for party platters.  It may seem unnecessary, but I firmly believe that you eat with your eyes first.  So, I like to have a plan–a plan that I can follow to a) decide how much food to buy, b) figure out dishes I will need to use and eventually wash, c) envision where the food will be placed around the house, and d) extrapolate what my guests will see once they walk in through the door.  Surprisingly,  taking an extra minute to plan it out really reduces the rush of putting food out “elegantly” when guests arrive.   I am not a party planner, but here is my little tip to make your next party platter, “party-ready”!

Breakfast, Lifestyle

Breakfast Du Jour

 

I eat oatmeal everyday and if you read my blog, you will see that I am constantly trying to come up with creative ways of eating oatmeal for breakfast.  Usually I bake my oatmeal with fruits and nuts;  sometimes in a large baking dish like my Baked Oatmeal with Walnuts and Figs recipe, or in muffin tins/ mini bundt pans like Marmalade Muffins, Blueberry-almond oatmeal muffins or Lemon, rosemary and olive-oil cakes.  It is all about fooling the mind and making it appear as if I were eating dessert for breakfast.  However, when I don’t have time to “bake” my oatmeal ahead of time, I will eat it in its traditional porridge form.  Even then, I try to jazz it up, just to cheer myself and start the day off right.  After all,  Mom was right, breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

Featured here is my Cherry Almond Oatmeal.  Cook the oatmeal as directed and thin it out with almond milk and honey.  Add sliced almonds and chopped cherries, and enjoy ! Make your Monday morning a little more exciting!

Lifestyle

Elegance in simplicity

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200418181013102_cover

As much as I like to cook, take pictures of my food and share them in this blog, every now again, it is a treat when I don’t have to cook.  Usually, that means we are going out to eat.  But in these days of isolation, I find a lot of joy when my husband cooks for me.  In our house (an probably like yours too), he is the grill-master and his favorite thing to cook is…….you guessed it…..steak!  For this simple, yet elegant dinner, what you need is good quality ingredients.  To treat ourselves, we splurged on some delicious NY strip steak and a steak of this quality only needs some good kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

00000img_00000_burst20200418164206809_cover00100dportrait_00100_burst20200418164229124_cover

Throw it on to the grill and cook it to your liking–rare for my husband, medium rare for me.  Pair this with any side dish of your choice.  We like green beans and my perfect pee-wee potatoes to go with it.

00000img_00000_burst20200418180955488_cover

If you have some leftovers, you can always make some Steak Crostini, year simple and elegant appetizer to enjoy the next day–it won’t even taste like leftovers!

00100dportrait_00100_burst20200420174317644_cover

Lifestyle

Simmer Sauce Solutions

IMG_20200331_115654

This may be obvious to you, but a well-stocked pantry is essential.  Especially, during these days of “social distancing”,  when going to the grocery is like going out to a war zone.    Like most of you out there, my pantry consists of the usual suspects-pasta, brownie mix, canned corn, canned tuna, chicken stock, canned tomatoes, pickles, etc.  A few more things that I always on hand are jarred sauces.  I used to hate using pre-packed sauces, they were full of sodium and preservatives and I most certainly sis not care for.  However, the necessity for cooking hearty meals in a flash lead me to explore some brands and I have settled on a few that are relatively on the healthier side.  They are also a couple bucks more expensive, so I always stock up on them when they go on sale. Here are a few jars that you will always find in my pantry.

Indian: Patak’s Simmer sauces.  I have tried most of the varieties of their but Patak’s Tikka Masala, Jalfrezi, Biriyani paste, and Rogan Josh are the best.  Here are some of the recipes I have made with them:

Murgh Kofta Rogan Josh

Gosht jalfrezi

Asian: For a delicious stir-fry, Tsang’s stir-fry sauces are the best, because they have the least amount of sugar.  I usually by the Teriyaki, Classic or Szechuan Sauce.  Here are my stir-fry recipes

Beef Teriyaki

Chicken in Classic Sauce

Mexican: Jarred pickled jalapenos and Salsa Verde are must-haves for my Chicken chili recipe.  I look for the Culinary Tours brand.

Chicken Chili

Italian: I always buy the Victoria brand of tomato basil sauce. Even “America’s test kitchen” vouched for this brand.  I don’t have to tell you how to use pasta sauce, but my favorite use is to make chicken parm or use it as a dipping sauce for eggplant cutlets.

Eggplant Cutlets

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Lifestyle

Self-care Sunday

00000IMG_00000_BURST20200405124050209_COVER copy

Now, more than ever, we are glued to a screen.  We are working from home, studying from home, attempting to socialize from home.  Anxiety levels are high and motivation is low.  The sofa is working overtime too–it is now your office, dining room, and bedroom.  “Social distancing” to “Flatten the Curve” is certainly the best way to combat this invisible enemy, but it is certainly wreaking havoc on our physical and mental health.  As we juggle to do multiple jobs, all at the same time, and all from home, I hope we can take a minute to stop and take care of ourselves.  Thus, I thought I would share some of my tried and true TLC tips.  Trust me, these are homemade and homegrown rituals that we Indians have been indulging in for centuries!

Tip #1:  Start your day right!

00000PORTRAIT_00000_BURST20200405124111877

Every morning, the first thing I eat (yes, even before your morning coffee) are a few pieces of raw turmeric with a few whole black peppercorns and local honey.  Turmeric has curcumin which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  Turmeric is excellent for your skin and digestion.  Ingesting it with peppercorns (which has piperine) helps in the absorption of curcumin into the bloodstream.   Local honey helps you with seasonal allergies, it also sweetens the earthy taste from the turmeric and cools down the heat from the peppercorns.

Tip#2: For your hair

For those of you who know me, I don’t know how to do hair.  I can tie it in a ponytail or straighten it,  so the least I can do it take care of my hair’s health.  All my life, the only “product” I have used regularly is warm coconut oil.  Massage the oil into your scalp and leave it on–the longer the better.  Wash it off with your usual shampoo.  Haircare–done!! This works! Even my husband is a huge fan–although I think he enjoys the scalp massage more than the soft and shiny outcome of the treatment.

Tip#3: Sandalwood for your skin

00000IMG_00000_BURST20200405124201579_COVER00100dPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200405124236968_COVER

Much like my hair care routine, this homemade face mask is also something I have been doing all my life.  It starts with Sandalwood powder.  It does wonders in removing a suntan, in soothing a sunburn, and healing acne scars.  To make the mask you can add a whole bunch of natural stuff like citrus juice (to lighten and brighten), yogurt (to soften and moisturize), gram flour (natural exfoliant) and rosewater (to hydrate).  Use whatever combination that suits your skin type.  While you are at it, close your eyes and put some cucumber slices on them–your eyes need some rest too!  Move aside, expensive lotions and potions here comes your one-stop skincare fix!

Tip#4: For dry hands

00000IMG_00000_BURST20200405124141013_COVER

Now that we are constantly washing our hands and using hand sanitizer,  our hands are extremely dry.  I like pampering dry skin (not just hands, think elbows and heels too) with an olive oil and sugar scrub.  You can add rosemary and orange zest (lemon, vanilla bean, and lavender are excellent choices too) to a small jar of sugar and store it in your pantry.  When you are ready, add some of the fragrant sugar to olive oil, scrub it on and massage (area for your choice) for a while till the sugar dissolves, and then wash off with warm water.  Say hello to supple skin!

Consider trying one or all of these tips at least once a week.  Why not make your next Sunday and self-care day?

Lifestyle

There must be cake!

56281611_10100620119786875_1496119550817599488_o

I am not a big fan of Birthday parties.  I just don’t see the point of having a party every year and not really remembering it.  Don’t get me wrong, I had birthday parties all the way from 1 to 16, but here is the thing–I don’t remember them. Well, maybe my 16th birthday party, because it was a simple homecooked lunch with my four best school friends.  My 21st? well, anti-climactic, since I never got carded !!   Anyway, while parties are overrated, there is one tradition that I try to uphold and that it the birthday cake.  Everyone deserves a slice of cake and glass of champagne (if you are old enough to drink) on your birthday.  So whether you celebrate your birthday for a week, or try to ignore it altogether, try to indulge in a slice of something sweet!

Classics, Lifestyle

Short Notice Tea Party

IMG_20190324_190902

In true “Bengali” fashion, my aunt and uncle informed me that they would be visiting for tea.  They had not seen me in a very long time, and now that the snow has melted, that felt a more comfortable in making the drive.  Don’t get me wrong, I love having guests and I was extremely happy to see them.  I only wish I got a little bit more notice so that I could whip up some home made treats.  So, with about 24 hrs to spare and lots of weekend errands to run, I turned to store bought treats.  On the menu was Darjeeling tea from India, Biscoff and Shortbread cookies, cucumber and ham finger sandwiches, chicken salad canapes, and, last but not the least, vegetable samosas—a Bengali tea without samosas is simply incomplete !!  This was also a great opportunity to break out my Fortnum & Mason tea service.  All in all, it turned out to be lovely afternoon !

Lifestyle

Paper to Plate…

This is a continuation of cake design.  A few week ago, I drew out the design for a cake, and I have to say, executing the design was so easy with a plan.  So, as another birthday rolls around, I have put pen to paper to come up with my next design.  Recipe to follow !IMG_20190316_063901_131

Lifestyle

Designing a cake…

I love baking and specifically, I love designing cakes.  The more challenging the better.  Now, I do not have any formal training so I watch endless hours of baking shows and YouTube tutorials to learn tips and tricks.  One of my favorite shows is “The Great British Baking Show”— what those home bakers create is simply magic!

Capture.JPG

If you are familiar with the show, you will recognize the screenshot above.  Every recipe baked on the show comes with these beautiful illustrations that road-map the design and ingredients.  Taking inspiration from this, I decided to, for the first time, start sketching out my designs.  Usually, I look at a lot of pictures online and then just freehand it on the cake.  Sometimes it works and sometimes, well, let us just call it an EPIC FAIL!!!  This is my attempt to be a little bit more structured in my approach.  Below is how I “plan to design a spice cake.  Stay tuned to see if the real thing looks anything like this!

IMG_20190302_171306_045.jpg