Sunday, February 26, 2012

Holi Cannoli(!) and My 2nd Year Anniversary in Blogging World

What did I say? I TOTALLY MADE THAT! After having tasted the true Sicilian cannolis in Taormina, Sicily, gotta make them myself! And here it is. The simple and pure pleasure of authentic cannolis. The soul of Sicily…..Well, it was quite a production though. A real time consuming process. But at the end, it was very satisfying and sweet.

The appeal of cannoli shells lies in its versatility, as they can be filled with almost anything and everything. The filling possibilities are endless and they can be altered to suit the taste buds of your near and dear ones. I have seen an Italian dessert shop in Little Italy in Boston that sells only cannolies with different fillings and people line up for them. It's such a lip smacking dessert, you know it's bad(!) for you but you will still go for one more, and more and more...

And what is sweeter than this to celebrate today, my 2nd birthday knowing you all, wonderful and caring people?!

3 cups Flour
¼ cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
¼ teaspoon Salt
3 tablespoons Butter
2 Eggs (well beaten)
2 tablespoons White Vinegar
1 Egg White (slightly beaten)
2 tablespoons Cold Water
Vegetable Oil for frying

How to:
In a large bowl, sift flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt together.
In a blender cut shortening into pieces, about the size of peas.
Stir in the eggs, vinegar and cold water to the shortening and then add the mixture to the dry mixture.
Knead into a dough till smooth.
Wrap the dough in a plastic sheet and place it in the refrigerator for half an hour.
Roll out the dough and cut into oval shapes and wrap each of the ovals around metal tubes.
Use egg white to brush the ends and fry them in hot oil.
Once the shells turn brown remove them from the oil and let them cool completely.

Ingredients for Filling
1 ½ pounds Ricotta Cheese
½ cup Icing Sugar
½ cup Chocolate Chips
1½ teaspoon Vanilla
3 tablespoons Pistachios, chopped
3 tablespoons Orange Peel chopped
I've got 2 packs like this!

How to:
Sift the dry ingredients together and then mix them with ricotta cheese.
Add vanilla and fruit peel to the mixture and mix well.
Chill the mixture for 1 to 2 hours.
Fill the cold shells with the fillings and sprinkle them with icing sugar.
Serve them immediately.

Note: the shells can be stored in air tight container for upto 1 month. They're always best when filled fresh. Leave filled pastries for more than an hour and they will turn soggy.

Please let your emails/comments keep coming! it's been great and thanks for your kindness and love!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Butternut Squash Gremolata

I realized one day that I haven't cooked with butternut squash in a long time! Not goo…I think. Being a squash lovely, this is just not forgivable I told myself! And guess what, following Saturday grocery shopping, first veggie I picked up was butternut squash. I wanted to try something different this time with the gorgeous vegetable. I've made soups, smoothies, raviolis with this time, I came up with this easy, pretty side dish. Roasted butternut squash wedges gremolata!

My family loved my asparagus gremolata. I always keep the basic ingredients at hand to make gremolata which is nothing but the mixture of bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, olive oil. The hardest part of cooking this squash is to peel the thing. Once you get the beautiful orange flesh opened up, you are all set to make this lovely dish.

Butternut Squash Gremolata
For gremolata, please refer to my Asparagus Gremolata Recipe!
1/2 butternut squash, cut into wedges
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

How to:
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Brush the cookie sheet with a bit of oil, arrange squash slices on it.
Sprinkle with gremolata mixture and then top with olive oil.
Roast for about 20 minutes until the squash becomes tender.
Crank up the oven to 425°, sprinkle cheese on top of wedges, roast for further 10 minutes or so until the cheese browns up.
Sprinkle some more parsley and serve.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy V-Day N Bleeding Heart Pastries!

Happy Valentine's Day dear friends!

Well, I believe that all 365 days should be Valentine's days as love for each other should never cease! What do you think? Having said that, not all of us have time to show in deeds how much we love our family and friends. Maybe that's why this particular day is being celebrated. Put aside all the worries and show your loved ones how much you love them, how much you care about them! Again, it shouldn't be just one day affair as we need to show them time and time again that yes, I love you to our husbands, kids and parents!

We celebrated V day yesterday and I made a very special dinner for my family. I will post the main course part later on. What I want to show you my friends today is my Bleeding Heart dessert! Don't panic! It's bleeding and oozing with love!

These adorable cream-filled hearts are perfect for Valentine’s Day or any time you want to serve a loving treat. It is a very delightful recipe and such a pretty way to show our love for those near and dear ones.

Bleeding Heart Pastry


 1 cup AP flour
1/4 cup cold butter
a pinch of salt
1-2 tbsp water
2 cups thawed Cool Whip
3 cups Hunts vanilla pudding
6 oz seedless Strawberry preserve
1 cup fresh strawberries
Confectioners' sugar
Mint leaves to garnish(optional)

How to:

 Mix flour with butter, salt and little water till crumbly dough forms.
Gather the dough together and wrap in a plastic wrap.
Keep aside to rest for about 15 minutes.
Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface. Cut with the lightly floured heart shape cookie cutter.
 Place 1 inch apart on parchment paper lined baking sheet.
 Bake at 400° F for about 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
 In the mean time, mix gently the Cool Whip and pudding.
Remove the pastries and place them on the wire rack to cool.
 Just before serving, warm preserves in a small saucepan; drizzle some onto dessert plates.
Take 2 pastries.
Place bottom  half on plate; spread each with 2 tablespoons of filling.
Top with another pastry; drizzle with remaining preserves.
Garnish with berries and  confectioners' sugar.

Now this is the perfect and gentlest way to say someone I LOVE YOU, instead of yelling it out from the roof tops! Let your plate speak volumes for you!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao chicken is a classic dish in Sichuan(Szechuan) cuisine, originating in Sichuan province of China. One of my co-workers mentioned to me that she loves this dish so much, she orders it almost every day from the near by restaurant. I think that this is the dish which is one of the most favourite of all the Chinese dishes among the North Americans! I myself like the spicy bite of this dish a lot. This is really not a difficult dish to make as most of us expected. Stir-fry the diced marinated chicken with skinless unsalted roasted peanuts, red bell peppers, rice wine, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, and chili peppers. And that’s it.

I love the Chinese dishes made at home as I feel the restaurant food is so greasy and heavy, it makes me feel bloated for a long time once I eat it. That's why I always try to break down the recipes at the restaurant and try to make them home which I must say mostly turns out good! Some times yes, they turn out to be yucky but thank God, those times are seldom. If I see the dish is turning yucky, I immediately throw in something that for sure makes it tastes good, if not authentic or better! Hey, after all, Chopped is one of my favourite show and I've learned presence of mind from that show!

Try this recipe out sometime!!! You might like it.

In this healthier version of traditional Kung Pao Chicken, the chicken is stir-fried instead of deep-fried, reducing the fat content.

Kung Pao Chicken
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 7 to 8 ounces each
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Other Ingredients
8 small dried red chili peppers
2 cloves garlic
2 green onions
4 tablespoons oil for stir-frying, or as needed
Diced green & red pepper
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup sliced carrots
1 teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorns
1/2 cup peanuts or cashews

How to:
Cut the chicken into 1-inch cubes. Combine with the marinade ingredients, adding the cornstarch last. Marinate the chicken for 25 minutes.

While the chicken is marinating, prepare the sauce and vegetables: In a small bowl, combine the dark soy sauce, rice wine, and sugar. Set aside.

Slit the chilies,remove the seeds. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Cut the green onion diagonally.

Heat the wok over medium-high to high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken. Stir-fry until it turns white and is almost cooked. Remove from the wok.

Add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Add the chili peppers and the diced green-red peppers, broccoli, carrots and ground pepper. Stir-fry briefly until they turn dark red.

Add the sauce to the wok. Bring to a boil. Add the chicken back into the pan. Stir in the peanuts/cashews and the green onion. Remove from the heat and stir in the sesame oil. Serve hot.

I also added fried tofu along with chicken.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Game Day Philly Cheese Steak Pizza-Pizza of the Month!

Now I am not a fan of this game at all! I only watch bits n pieces with my son who is a great lover of the game and is very much excited as his team, Patriots were in the superbowl! I only kept the tab on scores and who was winning or losing as I was preparing his favorite foods for the game evening. I made boneless chicken wings(recipe to follow!) and this pizza which according to him was the yummiest, tastiest pizza I’ve made by far! BTW, this comment gets repeated every time I try new pizza so now I don’t worry about it anymore. Before it concerned me so much that for days, I would keep on thinking what could have possibly gone wrong with all those pizzas I made, how come he didn’t like them. Now, I don’t care anymore as I have known all the comments that will follow after every new pizza I make.

I only added a few more seasonings to it and yes, a serious drizzle of Sriracha, his favorite hot sauce on top of the crust before I added toppings. We love Philly Cheesesteak sandwich and I thought why not try making a pizza with those same toppings? I used chicken instead of beef and mushrooms in the pizza sauce. The taste was just awesome. I know I will be making this pizza more often now.

Philly Cheese Steak Pizza

1 pizza base
1-1/2 cups marinara sauce
1 cup mushrooms, sliced and sauted
1 medium onion, sauted
1 each medium green and red pepper, sliced
2-3 cups shredded chicken(Optional)
1 roasted garlic head
2-3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
6-8 provolene cheese slices
1-2 tbsp olive oil

How to:

Heat the oven to 425° F.
Drizzle oil on top of pizza base.
Smear the base with roasted garlic.
Spread marinara sauce on top of it.
Spread the base with all the cheeses.
Now arrange chicken, onion, mushrooms and peppers strips on cheese.
At this point, you can sprinkle Italian seasonings, dry basil or garlic powder to your liking and Sriracha sauce if you like it hot!
Bake in hot oven for about 30 minutes or the base is nicely golden brown.
Cut into wedges and serve.

Basic Pizza Dough
1 pkg. dry yeast
3/4 c. warm water
1/4 tsp. salt
1 T. oil
1 tsp. sugar
3 c. flour

Mix ingredients together, adding flour last. Cover and let rise 1 hr.