Friday, 29 April 2011

The language of flowers..

We often use roses or other flowers as means of expressing our emotions to people on different occasions like red roses for deep and passionate love, pink roses for likeness or sunflowers for showing respect etc. But that flowers and flower arrangements have a proper language of their own where these can be used  as codes to express our intentions and feelings towards others is something new to me. I was actually quite surprised to learn that from our local florist a few weeks back and its funny, how it kept me busy searching meaning of every second flower, fruit or vegetable that I bought lately.

And this is actually my motivation behind the assembling of these beautiful cupcake pots using fresh strawberries as symbol of perfection and “sweetness in life”. I think, strawberries with their majestic colour and unique frangrance are one of the most beautiful of fruits, and can bring exquisite joy to anyone.

Bring sweetness into the lives of your loved ones by making these simple and fruity strawberry cupcake pots!


strawberry cupcake pots

Arent they cute??? And the most important part is...these are so easy to make that it took me not more than 5 minutes on each cup to decorate.

You need:

Fresh strawberries
Marzipan and green food colour
Cupcakes
M & Ms, cornflakes and two small chocolate balls for making the bee.


Prepare the pot as for the Easter Goodies. Now take some fresh strawberries and make four small cuts on each side of the pointed end.




Again make a few cuts for making more petals.




Make few more flowers like this. Using a tooth pick, adjust these on the prepared cupcake pot. Place two yellow and one black or dark brown smarties/M & Ms on the marzipan grass to make the honey bee. I didnt have the yellow ones, so I simply used the orange smarties instead. Adjust the eyes and wings with the help of melted chocolate or any fruit jam of your choice.

Enjoy!!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Springy Easter Goodies

As a matter of fact I shouldnt really be sitting here and typing this post today as there are thousands of other tasks waiting for my immediate attention before we leave on the Easter holidays for a week ....which means the whole laundry has to be done and ironed, the entire house must be cleaned once, have to buy myself some new clothes and get a new hair cut, my brother in-law with family are also arriving shortly and some preparations have to be done in that regard as well and and and.....But its just that I really wanted to take out a few minutes and compose this post to send my christian friends the beautiful presents on Easter that Ive made for them yesterday. Hope you all like these and will also pass on the idea to your friends and family:)




Easter-Cupcakes


Easter Cupcakes

You need:

Cupcakes
Few pots (youll find these easily at the local nurseries)
Marzipan  (or you could also try using your favourite butter cream recipe)
Green food colour
Ready-made Easter eggs (you can make these at home as well using marzipan)











Fill half of the pot with candies or other goodies of your choice. Place the prepared cupcake on top. Your cupcake pot is now ready for further decorations andddddd....here comes my trick:







For making grass, hair or spaghetti on cakes, there is special icing tip (No. 233) with several small holes in it. It is very simple. You just squeeze the icing and pull up and can easily give a refereshing addition to your cakes. Important is, however, not to have a too runny icing. Now, what if you dont have this tip??? How about using your garlic-press :) It always works for me atleast. And specially for making grass and other spaghetti-like decorations with marzipan, its my favourite.









Now mix a few drops of green colour into the marzipan and knead with careful hands until you reach your desired shade. Make very small balls and squeeze through the garlic-press. You may need a knife to detatch the sticky marzipan from the presser. Place carefully on the sides of the cupcake.





Once the grass is done, place the easter eggs in the middle.

Tip: Incase you insist on making the sweet eggs also at home, roll your coloured marzipan or fondant in an egg-like shape. Then roll in finely granulated sugar (optional).






Give your Easter basket a new, unique twist and flair:) Happy Easter friends!!!!

Also check the next post on springy strawberry cake pots...



Friday, 15 April 2011

The Animal Kingdom

If you are a parent or have ever been around kids for sometime in your life, you must have observed how they love animals. From toys, games and cartoons to bed time stories and poems - their small world revolves around the fascinating animal characters. The love grows even stronger if you get them a pet of their own. They play with it, sleep with it, and practically live with it.

Ive seen that usually no other place on earth would fascinate a child more than a zoo and no other costume during halloween and carnival days or at kids parties would win more attention than that of a lion, butterfly, Batman or the Little Mermaid.

Since animals are so important to the most-important people in our lives, how about surprising them by bringing a few animals to home so that they get a chance to have a close-up look at their favourites in a comfortable surrounding and spend as much time with them as they want. If you are thinking, its impossible - just have a look at the pictures below from a child´s perspective:)






Ok, this is just a harmless and friendly version of a tiger:)









My two-year old slaughtered the innocent sheep within a minute:(



















Bunnies are cute, soft and furry:)











Animal cupcakes are not only a fun treat for your kids at home but they also serve as great addition to a farm, jungle or safari themed birthday party. Things Ive used to make these cute animal faces include:

Cupcakes
Cream Cheese Frosting
Soft Fruit Candy (I took the peach one for the tigers and pink for the sheep)
M & Ms or smarties
Melted chocolate
Orange and green food colours
Dried apricots
Chocolate balls (mainly used for cake and dessert decoration). If you dont find them at your local stores, try to have a close look at the candies corner and other kid-related stuff. You basically need something small and round for making the eyes.
Popcorns

For making the tiger cupcakes, I used




cheesy cupcakes, two brown M &M´s, one orange coloured soft fruit candy, two small round chocolate balls and the ready-made chocolate gel, cream cheese frosting and a few drops of orange food colour.

Mix food colour in the icing to get a nice orange shade. Spread the frosting on the cupcake, make eyes with M & M´s (or smarties etc., soften the fruit candy in the microwave for a few seconds (within the wrapper) and flatten it a bit with finger tips. For a finer surface, you may like to rub it on the kitchen counter or with the back of a spoon. This is for achieving a contrast to the orange ( you can also use a light coloured icing instead but I was in no mood of dish washing, so went for the shortcut). Using forsting as glue, fix the chocolate balls on the candy to make the nose. For rest of the details, use the chocolate gel or put some melted chocolate in a plastic baggie and snip a tiny bit off of the corner, squeeze out the chocolate to make the pattern.





Fix two candies in the cupcakes to make the ears. It was a bit tricky as the candies were really hard and heavy for the soft cupcakes. But I couldnt find anything else in my kitchen cabinets, you can certainly save the effort by using some crackers or other edible stuff.

My motivation for making all these animal cupcakes was actually the sweet popcorns packet that my son had opened a day before and somehow none of us wanted to finish it off. And it was funny how the first sheep, within five minutes of its appearance on the stage, was butchered and all consumed along with the popcorn wool and other parts:)



Spread some cream cheese frosting on the cupcake. Melt a fruit candy in microwave and flatten it by rubbing on your palms or on the counter. Place it on the frosting. Make nose by cutting an M& M into half and fix it on the candy with the help of some icing. Cover rest of the cupcake with sweet popcorns. Fix the eyes on place.




Since Easter is around the corner, rabbits are the most fascinating creatures on earth to most of the kids these days. With all other animals, their presence on the animal kingdom was, therefore, a must....

So, I took some grated coconut, sprinkled it on top of the cupcakes with the the cream cheese icing. Made eyes with small decorating chocolate balls and the nose with an M&M. Cut the dried apricot lengthwise into half and made the long ears. You may like to make colourful bunnies by mixing some food colour into the grated coconut. Tip:  Do it in a plastic bag and shake well with hands and massage a bit until the colour is incorporated into the coconut.




Give your kids the joy of meeting the animals within your own house!!!

Monday, 11 April 2011

Everyday is a Valentines day!!

"Why do we need to associate love and emotions with days? Why do we need to celeberate our affection for each other on a fixed date, and put it aside till next year. Shouldnt the hearts always be imbued with love and not only on specific dates. Why cant we try to make everyday of our lives a Valentines Day?"

I must confess that I never liked my husband telling me all this whenever I was upset about not receiving a gift or special dinner on a Valentine´s day. It took me a while after our marriage to make my feminine mind realise that instead of concentrating on the typical hopes and expectations, I really need to have a look at what I am blessed with. We do still celebrate milstones with friends and family, but Ive now also realised to live everyday of my like as if it is the last. This is probably one of the reasons why every meal at our home is "special" and every weekend grocery ends up at a cafe´ as happiness need not be tied with dates, events or materials.

Todays share is also about making the ordinary days special by using simple things around you in a way other than they are actually meant for. And that how the world around us looks like depends, to a great extent, on how we want it to be like.

Continuing in the series of decorating cakes and cupcakes, here are a few ideas for you to make simple things look nicer:)




cheesy cupcake hearts






Cheesy Cupcake Hearts

Ingredients:

Cream cheese frosting
Red food colour
Cheesy cupcakes


Mix food colour into the cream cheese frosting until you get the desired shade and prepare the cupcake for filling.




With a sharp knife, cut off the top of the cupcakes. Using a heart-shaped pastry cutter, cut out a heart.
Tip: I used a paper pattern and placed it on the cake, followed the outlines and cut out the centre with the knife.






Dust the top with icing sugar. Place it back on the bottom. With a small spoon or pastry bag, fill in the heart with the frosting.


Cheesy Strawberry Cupcakes:

Ingredients:

Cupcakes
Cream cheese frosting
Red food colour
Chocolate chips
Decorative Edible Leaves (you may use fresh leaves from your garden, make sure they are edible and safe for your health)




Mix food colour into the frosting. Spread on the cupcake. Place chocolate chips to give the achenes effect. Insert the leaves on one side. Taraaaa.... Isnt it cool???



 
cheesy strawberry cupcakes


Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:
1/4 cup softened butter
80 g cream cheese
1/2 cup sifted confectioners sugar
2 drops vanilla essence

Cream together all the above given ingredients with a hand mixer until smooth and well-mixed.

Say cheese!!!!

I loooovvvveeee cheese!!! In MOST of its forms and varieties. Like all other sins, its delicious and irresistible and it is fattening as well but at the same time, it is so versatile and pairs so well with most of the foods that I cant resist adding it in our meals every second day...

These days, I am head over heels in love with the plain yellow cake with a slight cheesy flavour in it. Whether as short break snack with tea or a quick breakfast in the morning, its really IN at our house. I have lately used the same cake recipe for making cupcakes as well and since the experiment was so successful that I had to share it with all of you.



cheesy plain cupcakes


Cheesy Plain Cupcakes

Ingredients:

2/3 cup confectioners sugar (or 1/2 cup very fine granulated white sugar)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup oil
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup cream cheese (Philadelphia or 5 cubes kiri cheese)
pinch of yellow food colour
1/4 cup yoghurt
pinch of salt
drops of vanilla essence (optional)


Preheat the oven at 180 C.
Take sugar and oil in a bowl, add food colour (just a pinch, youll be surprised how intense they get once you start adding eggs) and salt. Beat with the help of an electric mixer until the sugar is completely dissolved.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour and baking powder. Sieve thrice to remove any impurities.

Also beat cream cheese in a small bowl and add yoghurt into it.

Now start adding eggs to the oil mixture, one by one. Beat for 5 minutes at highest speed until the mixture turns thick. Add in the yoghurt-cheese mixture and beat for a few seconds until smooth and combined.





Now start adding flour mixture into this and fold with a spatula (or a wooden spoon would also do the job). If you are a beginner, try folding by rotating the spoon in the mixture making an "8".

Pour the mixture into the prepared cupcake/muffin pans not more than 3/4 full.




Bake for 15-25 minutes (depending on the size of your cupcakes and how reliable your oven is....). Take out from oven and place on the cooling rack.

I usually dust the cake with icing sugar. But for decorating the cupcakes, I made cream cheese frosting that goes along really well with their creamy texture.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Cup a Cake

Decorating cakes is a piece of cake!!! Trust me, its true. You need not necessarily buy your cakes from a bakery any longer; there is such a wide range of decorative accessories, cake mix, and instant icings in the market these days that even the inexperienced beginners can make beautiful cakes to delight family and friends. There are plenty of ways to decorate your cake, all you need to do is... use your imagination and try out new ideas!!!! Once you are ready to do that, you´ll figure out, how easy and addictive it can be.

Although I had planned writing a different post for today but the mini cakes that I baked a few days ago were so tempting that I had to fit them in this series of  decorating cakes/cupcakes. As a matter of fact, they do belong here for the reason that I usually bake this cake in a regular baking pan but the cute mini tea cups in my kitchen cabinet were so inviting that I really wanted to do something with them. And the inspiration lead me to this interesting experiment of baking the cake in a tea cup:)




cake in a cup





Not only decorating accessories help you create a masterpiece but the way you present your art work is also very important. This is a dark chocolate cake with chocolate pudding filling and whipped cream topping dusted with cocoa powder:) Enjoy!!!


Dark Chocolate Cake In A Cup


For the Chocolate Pudding Filling you need:


3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 1 tbs milk
1 egg yolk
1/4 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Place a saucepan over medium heat and combine sugar, cornstarch and cocoa powder in it.  Mix with the back of spoon to remove lumps.






Add milk. Cook until thickened like a custard. Turn the heat down to medium low. Pour some of the chocolate mixture into the beaten egg yolk and pour the egg mixture back into the pan. This will prevent the eggs from scrambling.





Cook and stir  for a few minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter,salt and vanilla. Transfer to a bowl, cover and allow to cool in the refrigerator. I usually make this a day ahead.

Now make the cake. Preheat oven to 180C.


Dark Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

1/2 cup soft butter
1/2 cup fine granulated sugar (or 3/4 cup powdered sugar)
2 large eggs
2-3 tbs cocoa powder (depends on the quality of cocoa)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup yoghurt
pinch of salt

With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy ( for about 5 minutes). Add salt and both eggs to this mixture and beat again for 5-6 minutes. Fold in the yoghurt.

In a seperate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. (I always sieve the dry ingredients thrice).




Add this to the egg mixture in three steps and fold carefully. The easiest way to fold is rotating the spatula in the batter making an 8 until the mixture is all even.









Generously butter the baking cups (make sure to use heavy duty, i.e. heat proof cups for this. China mugs are the best for this purpose). Dust with fine granulated sugar. Fill the cups a little higher than half with the batter and bake for 20-25 minutes (baking time varies, depending on the size of your mugs). Tip: bake only one cup first and then adjust the baking time accordingly for the rest of the cupcakes.




Tip: Check after 15 minutes with a wooden skewer and continue baking accordingly. Make sure not to overbake. Chocolate tastes horribly bitter if over baked and the cake will be too crumbly and dry to eat. Here, it is better to take out the mugs earlier than too late.


Cool the cakes in the mugs for 10 minutes. Remove from the mugs and cool completely on a wire rack before filling and icing. I did all this work a day ahead and filled the cakes next day.






Lop off the top of the mini cake. Make a small well with the help of a spoon. Put the small piece of cake to one side and transfer the cake back into the cup. Pour in the chocolate pudding. Then place the lid back on the top.
 



 


Decorate the top with whipped cream and dust with cocoa powder. Enjoy!!!





Here´s an another variation of the same cake served with ice-cream and different filling.






Tip: You can use anything that goes along with the flavour of the cake, e.g. strawberry jam/sauce, vanilla pudding/custard, caramel sauce.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Fix without a mix

There had been a time when pancake mix was a must on my groceries list. For some reason, I had never tried making pancakes from scratch until the day I realised how happily my son comes to the table when we have pancakes on it. So, I read the main ingredients stated at the back of the packet, revised my cake baking and omelet making experiences in my mind and decided to give it a try. And I must admit, the first time was a catastrophe because I had totally messed up the flour quantity and the result was more of a egg mousse than pancakes:D

I, then took a recipe from the all-knowing internet and after two three attempts on adjusting it according to our taste, here is my version of pancakes.......



Pancakes with raspberry sauce


Pancakes with Raspberry Sauce

Ingredients:

2 small eggs
1 1/2 tbs butter
1 tbs vanilla sugar (or a drop of vanilla essence)
180 ml milk
3 tbs yoghurt
a pinch of salt
150g flour
1 tbs baking powder
60g sugar
2-3 tbs butter for the pan

Melt the butter and let it cool. In a bowl, whisk together eggs and the sugars.





Add melted butter to this. Mix yoghurt and milk and pour in the egg-mixture. Also add salt. Mix with light hands. In a second bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Sieve it thrice and start folding into the egg-mixture.



Don't overmix. The less you stir your batter, the fluffier your pancakes will be.

Heat a non stick griddle. Grease with butter and adjust heat on low-medium. Pour the batter carefully onto the griddle with the help of a ladle or a small cup ( fill approx. 1/4).





Cook until bubbly on top. Bubbles on top indicate it’s time to flip. This will take about 2-3 minutes. Flip and brown the other side as well.

Top with butter and powdered sugar and serve with raspberry sauce. I had some leftover creme patessiere that goes along great with the pancakes.









Raspberry sauce

Ingredients:
600g frozen raspberries
160g sugar
1 tbs corn starch
150 ml water


Take the frozen raspberries in a sauce pan with 100 g sugar and water. Cook on medium, stirring constantly. Take off from heat. Mix corn starch in 2-3 tbs of water. Add to the raspberry mixture and cook again for 2-3 minutes until the desired consistency is reached. The sauce will thicken further as it cools. Strain through a sieve.


Tip: You can double the pancakes recipe for making more.
Also, the leftovers freeze well for a microwave breakfast later.
The raspberry sauce can be served warm or cold and will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. 
You may use other sauce of your choice instead of raspberry, e.g. Maple syrup, honey, strawberries, nutella or chocolate sauce etc.  


Enjoy!

 

A wocket in the pocket

A lot of my working friends have often told me how they dream about surprising their loved ones by cooking something special but their busy and hectic routine doesnt allow them to stand in the kitchen and invest hours in making these. Since I am a cooking-freak and not even working these days, I might not fully relate myself to their situation but there is one objective that we all share, i.e achieving great output with less effort and smaller use of resources in the minimum of time. So, here is one of my favourite quick meals that is not only easy to prepare but also great for taking away in boxes for picnics or work time meals.









Meat Pockets:

Ingredients:
250g puff pastry
1/4 kg  mutton / minced meat (Ive used minced meat here although the mutton filling tastes even better)
1 tbs garlic paste
2 small onions (chopped)
salt and  freshly coarse black pepper
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 green chili
1 egg for glazing


In case you are using mutton, cut the boneless meat into very small cubes. Mix the meat with other ingredients except for the egg and puff pastry.




Now roll out the puff pastry and cut into small squares. I am using a ready-made puff pastry here. This can, however, be made in big batches at home and frozen. The experienced cooks may prefer it that way but if you're short on time or just beginning to work with this dough, you may like to opt for the pre-made. I personally dont mind including few ready made products to my cooking if the time is really short as these can be really helpful in whipping up magical meals in no time.





Place some filling in the middle of the square. Now fold the two opposite corners together and press the dough with your finger tips.





Again, fold the other two corners and make a pocket. Brush with beaten egg (tip: for more beautiful results, try using the yolk only). Sprinkle few cumin seeds on top and bake on 180 C for 15-20 min.









Enjoy as snack or a complete meal served with yoghurt-cheese dip and mashed potatoes.

Tip: In case you are living in a country where puff pastry is not easily available at the market and you want to save the effort of making it at home, try asking at the local bakeries.