Chocolate Macarons

It is almost impossible to get some exercise in this town.  Even if you truly want to, there is always an enticing lazy solution lurking around the corner just begging you to take the easy way out .

Just this morning I scanned my to do list for today:
  1. Buy groceries
  2. Pick up prescription
  3. Hem Pants
  4. Mani/Pedi
  5. Work Out

The groceries and meds were delivered within half an hour of ordering them.  The tailor came over, took my measurements and promised to return my pants the next day. The salon sent the beautician to do my nails while my baby napped. At least I had to physically move and go to Studio Fitness to exercise.  But just then I checked my email to find an in-home personal trainer offer from Groupon. And you know which option I picked!

My list was done and I felt I didn’t actually do any work. So, I decided to make some chocolate macarons.Even though they are pretty easy to make, with all the steps and fiddling they are rather labour intensive. So,  I  jumped at the opportunity since I figured this was the only workout I was going to get today!
P.S. Since this is Dubai and there is always an easier option available,  rather than making these macarons yourself you can just catch me at Bakefest Dxb on November 26 at Wild Peeta and  eat them there!!


MACARONS AU CHOCOLAT

Recipe by: Lori Longbotham in Lucious Chocolate Desserts

INGREDIENTS:

For the cookies:
1/2 cup blanched whole almonds
1  3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
For the filling:
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

PREPARATION:

1. To make the cookies for the chocolate macaroons, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Pulse the almonds with 1 cup of the confectioners’ sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Add the cocoa powder and the remaining 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar and pulse until well blended.

3. Beat the egg whites with the salt with an electric mixer on medium-high speed in a large bowl just until the whites form soft peaks when the beaters are lifted. Add the granulated sugar and beat just until the whites form stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted. With a whisk or a rubber spatula, gently fold in the almond mixture.

4. Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Pipe out 1-inch-diameter mounds about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake, one sheet at a time, for 6 to 8 minutes, until the tops are cracked and appear dry but the macaroons are still slightly soft to the touch.

5. Transfer the cookies, still on the parchment paper, to barely dampened kitchen towels and let cool for 5 minutes. Carefully peel the paper off the macaroons and transfer to wire racks to cool completely. (The macaroons can be made 1 day in advance and stored in layers separated by wax paper in an airtight container.)

Make the filling:

6. Bring the cream just to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cocoa powder. Add the chocolate and butter and whisk until smooth. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate covered, for at least 30 minutes, or until the filling is firm enough to hold its shape when spread.

Assemble the macaroons:

7. If desired, transfer the filling to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Pipe the filling, or spread it with a table knife, generously on the flat side of half of the macaroons. Top with the remaining macaroons, flat side down, pressing together gently to form sandwiches. (The macaroons can be stored in layers separated by wax paper in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.)

Mixed Vegetable Sabzi

I am always looking for cooking shortcuts. My hungry boys eat 6 times a day so if I don’t cut some corners I will never leave the kitchen. My latest creation is the “Arabic Pizza” for those days when I am really in a time crunch. I get some Arabic bread, and quickly warm it on the skillet.  I then add some ketchup and oregano and grate some cheddar or feta on top and blitz it for a few seconds in the microwave. The finishing touch is to cut it into pizza slices using the pizza cutter so it looks more “real”.  But I knew I had gone too far when we went out for pizza and my kids actually preferred mine! I was shattered that I had ruined their developing taste buds. At this rate we will never enjoy a true NYC slice together and I absolutely cannot have that.

So, I decided to make something more  interesting, more spicy, and to incorporate vegetables. I came up with this mixed vegetable sabzi that uses ingredients I always have on hand and I can make in a flash. (Although not as fast as the Arabic Pizza!).
MIXED VEGETABLE SABZI




INGREDIENTS:

1 large chopped onion (Indian red onion)
1 peeled chopped potato (can microwave for couple minutes before if you prefer for faster cooking time in sabzi)
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1 chopped green chili
1-2 tomatoes
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
¾ tsp turmeric
½ tsp red chili powder (or to taste)
1-2 teaspon coriander powder (you can roast whole coriander seeds and finely crush for a bolder flavor if you prefer)
2-3 tsp cooking oil
1 tbsp garlic, grated
1 teaspon ginger, grated

PREPARATION:

1. Heat oil in pot. Add onion and cook until softened. Keep on medium high heat.

2. Add in ginger and garlic and sauté for a couple minutes. 

3.  Add potato and sauté for a few minutes. Add the vegetables and the tomatoes and green chili and sauté. Add salt and all spices and mix.

4. Cover and put on medium heat. Cook for 15 minutes or until all veggies cooked and flavours incorporated.  Season to taste. Garnish with fresh coriander if preferred.

Khana Mama at Bakefest DXB 2011 and Mini Cheesecakes with Jam

I never liked eating cheesecakes, but I always liked making them. From traditional New York Cheesecakes to Coffee Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ones, there was something about popping open that springform pan that somehow gave me joy.  But now I found a recipe (adapted from Grace Parisi) that is so  easy and so tasty that I actually like to eat these cheesecakes too. I hope everyone else enjoys these as much as I do since I will be making them for BAKEFEST DXB. Hope to see everyone on November 26!!
 
Mini Cheesecakes with Jam
 
 
 
INGREDIENTS:
 
9  digestive biscuits such as McVities, broken
3 tablespoons unsalted butter,melted
8 oz.Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup sugar
2/3 cup crème fraiche, at room temperature
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ cup raspberry jam (or any you like)
 
PREPARATION:
 
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a standard 12 cup muffin tin with foil baking cups and spray with vegetable oil spray.
 
2. In a food processor,  finely crush all the biscuits. Add butter and keep processing until mixed. Spoon the mixture into the 12 cups and press with the bottom of a glass to compact the crumbs. Bake for 5 minutes or until set. Leave oven on.
 
3. In a medium bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese with the sugar at medium speed until smooth. Beat in the crème fraiche, the eggs, and the vanilla.  Beat until smooth.
 
4. Pour cheesecake batter into prepared muffin cups and fill about ¾ full. Bake 10-15 minutes or until centers are slightly jiggly. Remove from oven and cool. Transfer to fridge and chill.
 
5. When ready to serve, remove foil paper and transfer to plate. Top with raspberry jam. 

Broccoli and Tofu Stir Fry

I was doing so well. These past months have been spent eating (relatively) healthily and exercising (Zumba!) pretty regularly. 

But then it happened. The holiday season started. And with each holiday came one calorie filled delicacy after the next. First came Diwali. By the light of the little diyas, I happily ate one mitai after the next, only pausing for a savory chakli break, and then resuming on the gulab jamun.

Then came Halloween. I actually tried not buying any candy this time. I even made Ry take a healthy dish of hummus and veggies for his school Halloween party. But despite my self control, the candy and chocolate flowed into my home from various parties and events and friends. And I am ashamed to admit, when the kids went to bed after trick or treating, I raided their candy bags to my heart’s content.

Now it is almost Eid, and my dear hubby has already bought some chocolate and sweets to celebrate. With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, it is unlikely I can control the glutton within.

So even though chocolate and cupcakes are on my mind, I am instead going to post a super healthy and tasty recipe I found on EatingWell to help me get back on track. I just started fitting into some of my old pre-pregnancy jeans and as comfortable as they were, I am not going back to the elastic waistbands of maternity wear!

Broccoli and Tofu Stir Fry with Brown Basmati Rice



INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth (I usually steam my frozen broccoli beforehand, so just reserve some of that water)
1/4 cup dry sherry (see Note) or rice wine or few teaspoons of rice vinegar (non-alcoholic version)
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or more to taste
1 14-ounce package extra-firm water-packed tofu, drained
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
6 cups broccoli florets (frozen ok too, just cook beforehand)
3 tablespoons water
·          Tilda Brown Basmati rice , cooked

PREPARATION:

1. Combine broth, sherry (or rice wine), soy sauce, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, sugar and crushed red pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Cut tofu into 3/4-inch cubes and pat dry, then sprinkle with salt. Place the remaining 2 tablespoons cornstarch in a large bowl. Add the tofu; toss gently to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the tofu; cook, undisturbed, until browned, about 3 minutes. Gently turn and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer to a plate.
My tofu is somehow never crisp, but still a bit soggy, although it is hard enough to not break apart. Any tips on getting a nicer crust on my tofu would be much appreciated.
3. Reduce heat to medium. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, garlic and ginger, few chili flakes; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broccoli (and water  if fresh broccoli); cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until tender-crisp, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir the reserved broth mixture and add to the pan. Cook until the sauce has thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Return the tofu to the pan; toss to combine with the broccoli and sauce.
4. Serve over brown basmati rice and a bit of Sriracha sauce.