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Amita Nene's Yummy Expressions

Amita Nene's Yummy Expressions

Strawberry Cheesecake
Hey guys! Can’t believe we are already done with half a month in the New Year. The memories of the ringing in the New Year are so fresh and vivid in my mind, that I feel it was just yesterday.
This year we celebrated the New Year week in Mahabaleshwar. Sort of a family reunion with about 20 of us, ages ranging between 7 years to 70 years. Just couldn’t believe that such a vast age would not deter us from being together, doing things together and having a ball of a time.
The chilling winter breeze brushing the skin and a walk in the clouds at sunrise left us enthralled. Then, there was hiking and biking, there was horse riding, boating, jungle trails, village fair et al. And of course many visits to the local market to buy jams n jellies n squashes and fudges. I managed to lay my hands on some really big and juicy strawberries when we visited some local strawberry farms, right on the day we started back from our memorable getaway.
So there I was back home, with 2 kilogram of the yummiest and sweetest strawberries! Absolutely drool worthy.
Some of those yummies were devoured and savoured every single bite for their divine juiciness, while others got topped with whipped cream and were polished off in no time.
Another small lot of them made their way to being a part of an absolutely yummy sinful dessert that I used them in…...The quick home-made strawberry cheese cake!! It tasted as delicious as it looked and it was an absolute pleasure to dig in.

So, to get the strawberry cheesecake going, you would need the following.
7-8 marie biscuits, finely crushed
2 tablespoons white butter (without salt)
About 200 gm of fresh cream
6-8 teaspoons of powdered sugar
Juice of one small lemon
10-12 big fresh strawberries cut into halves
4 teaspoon Strawberry Syrup
To begin with, Boil 150 gm of the fresh cream in a saucepan and add the lemon juice. When the water starts separating from the cream a bit, while the cream is still soft, remove it from heat and put the separated cream into a muslin cloth. Squeeze out excess water and transfer the cream cheese to a bowl, add the balance 50 gm fresh cream and sugar and whisk it till it becomes smooth and homogenous. Now add half a spoon of strawberry syrup and mix well.
Take a flat bottom dish – round or square, line the base evenly with the biscuit crumbs. Melt the butter and spread it evenly over the biscuit lining ensuring the entire based is soaked in the butter.
Refrigerate for about 10-15 minutes till the base is set. Then add the strawberry cream cheese mixture on the top and spread evenly. Spread the remaining strawberry syrup on the top. Refrigerate for 4-5 hours.
Remove from the fridge and cover the entire cheesecake with the oodles of fresh strawberry halves. Cut the cheesecake into equal pieces and serve chilled.
With every bite melting in the mouth, you can look forward to one heavenly and scrumptious dessert for your loved ones.
And with my entire stock of strawberries was gone in no time, I am looking forward to another holiday in Mahabaleshwar till the strawberry season lasts.
Go ahead, try it out and give it your signature. Happy experimenting! Let your Yummy expressions flow! I will see you again soon. Chao.

Chocolate Chips Oatmeal Cookies

My kids have stopped believing in Santa about 4 years now, but they still pretend play that they do believe in one, in order to make it an occasion to get gifts!! For couple of years, I actually did play along and bought them gifts. But finally called it a day a year back, much to their dismay! Imagine they will complete 13 this month!
Tough one isn’t it? Managing a pair of kids who offer me a unique combination of experiences with their childlike persuasions and demands on one hand and a bagful of attitude and airs that scream ‘teenage’ on the other!!
All I know now is that in my closet, I have a box full of hand-painted greeting cards, an elf doll, few thank you notes, Pokemon stickers and many other trinkets that were kept under pillows for Santa over the years, and had to secretly make their way into my closet. And in return “Santa” did leave gifts for them all the time.
This time around Santa or no Santa, kids wanted to make most of the brief Christmas break, so just before starting school tomorrow, we have baked some yummy cookies together.
My role of course was limited to that of a Recipe provider and the kitchen mess cleaner after the delicious cookies were ready.
Mission Cookie was thus embarked upon with a clear target…. Choco Chip Oatmeal Cookies!!!
To make a batch of 16 Large sized delicious Choco Chip Oatmeal Cookies, we used,
2 cups Instant cooking Oats
1 ½ cups of Whole wheat flour
½ cup Chocolate chips
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup white unsalted
½ cup of coarsely pounded nuts of your choice (I used Almonds & Walnuts)
1 teaspoon Vanilla essence
1 egg
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
¼ teaspoon Salt
Pre-heat the oven at 180 deg C.
In a large mixing bowl, blend butter and sugar till it is mixed well. Add Vanilla essence and egg. Beat till the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the oats, flour, soda, salt, choco chips and the nuts.
Knead well together into soft dough. Make equal 16 portions of the dough. Roll and flatten each portion with your hands and place them on a baking plate. Bake for about 15-20 minutes.
My baking plate could accommodate 8 portions at a time so I had to make 2 batches. I like to bake big cookies, if you prefer smaller cookies; you can make smaller portions suited to your liking.
Keep checking on the cookies to ensure they are browning evenly. Baking time may vary depending on the oven, so to check if your cookies are done, tap gently on the centre of the cookie with the tip of a knife. If the tip goes in, you need to keep baking. If it doesn’t, your batch is almost ready, just bake for another minute or so before you remove from the oven.
Place the cookies on a plate to cool before storing them in an air tight jar.
In about an hour and fifteen minutes, we had 16 most amazingly yummy and nice big cookies ready. One cookie could well be one mini meal!
By the time I have stored them away in a jar, there were only 14 cookies left!  As we have started our year on a Yummy note…. I know we are going to have many more culinary excursions all through the year.
Hope you all have a Yummy, delicious and healthy year ahead. Here’s wishing you guys and all your loved ones a Very Happy New Year!
And we will be in touch all through this year with loads and loads of YUMMY EXPRESSIONS!

Layered Panna Cotta with Mango and Coconut Cream…..

It was my dad’s 71st birthday last week. A very active person, he continues with his career, fitness regime and social life as actively. Even on his birthday, he was going to be out in the first half doing client visits, and major part of the second half in a social event. So my sister’s family n mine were left with only the fag end of the day to plan a celebration.  So we decided to assemble late in the evening at my place as kids wanted to plan some surprise for Grand-dad with candles and stuff!
Since dad and mom were coming over after a gala dinner at the social event, I planned to dish out some dessert. I had to make one was light on the tummy and hopefully the girdle as well and still would melt in the mouth!
Looking for something that can be served in a double shot helping, I settled for making the very Italian Panna Cotta.
Panna Cotta, literally means ‘Cooked Cream’ in Italian. It’s an easy to make dessert which uses Fresh Cream as its core ingredient.  Traditionally, Panna Cotta uses egg as its ingredient and is baked at low temperatures. However, the no-bake eggless version is now quite popular and a small amount of gelatin is blended in this version, to give it the soft setting just to hold it all together. This works perfect if the dessert is being served in glasses.  However, if it is being set in a mould to be unmoulded into a dish before serving, a dash of additional gelatin would be of help.
I squared in on making a Layered Panna Cotta with Mango and Coconut cream to be served as a double shot helping.
To get going I needed the following to serve about 8-10 persons,
2 cups of Fresh Cream
2 cups of Alphonso Mango puree (not in season, I used a tin)
2 cups of thick coconut milk (Many brands are available in 200ml cartons, however I prefer the creaminess of Dabur Hommade for this)
4 tbsp of Gelatin
5-6 tbsp Sugar (can vary depending on the sweetness of the puree and also the sweetness preferred for the final dessert)
2 drops vanilla essence
Take the mango puree and coconut milk in two separate mixing bowls.
Heat the cream in a non-stick pan, add vanilla essence and sugar and mix well till sugar has blended in well. Cool it a little, and then add half of the mixture to the mango puree and the balance half to the coconut milk. Stir well both the mixtures well till it is fully blended and smooth in texture.
Take 1/4 cup of hot water in a bowl, add half the gelation and keep stirring till completely dissolved. Slowly add half the gelation water to the coconut cream stirring briskly so that it blends perfectly. Add a quarter inch layer of the coconut Cream mix in the serving glasses and refrigerate it for about 40-60 min or till loosely set.
Take the remaining gelatin and mix with ¼ cup hot water till dissolved and blend in well into the mango puree. Remove the glasses from the fridge and lightly spoon in a quarter inch of the mango mix taking care not to break the coconut milk layer. Refrigerate again till loosely set. You can repeat the process depending on the number of layers you plan to make.
Once the final layer has set, your layered Panna Cotta is ready to serve. Drool…. Drool…. Drool!
It looks as delectable as it tastes yummy. And the smooth creaminess just melts in the mouth. Served a double shot portion and it was not heavy on the tummy too. Plus, the yummy expressions on faces of everyone who dig into my dessert was like the proverbial ‘cherry’ on the Panna Cotta!
You can make ‘n’ number of versions of Panna Cotta by adding crushes, sauces, fresh fruit and nuts as blended into the mix or as a topping, to give it your signature.
I plan to try out a mint flavoured version sometime soon…. Very excited…
A simple vanilla version topped with Chocolate fudge and chips or with Blueberry sauce just tastes out of this world and can make your guests keep wanting more… Try it…
And keep creating…. So long!

Firni The Indian Rice Pudding

This year I am pursuing a PG in Child and Family Counselling and last whole month was full of high voltage action! It was festive time and then it was also time for course work completion, there was journal writing and there was preparation for the term end exam, practical sessions and viva voce! I just got done with the exams today and I am as thrilled today as I used to be during my school days! And trust me; it’s even more fun to relive your student life again after so many years!

This Diwali vacation was thus power packed with my new found student status, my love for making the Diwali faraal and bringing out my fineries.

So, in addition to floral decorations, diyas, rangolis, lanterns, fireworks, designer outfits, jewellery, et al; this Diwali also was all about homemade farals, fusion dishes and elaborate meals.
Homemade chaklis, methi mathris, shankarpales, ladoos, chivda and kadbolis adorned my kitchen shelves as they jostled for space with my experimentals  - chinese flavoured mathris and oregano infused sev. While my family savoured the traditional Diwali snacks, they welcomed my crazy fusion creations too with lot of excitement and polished it off to my greatest delight.
As we hosted few lunches and dinners too during the festival time, I had to work on an elaborate menu each time. Focussing on getting unique flavors and textures to each of the dishes, I was having a great time for myself experimenting with the available ingredients in my pantry to dish out some culinary delights.
On one such occasion, I went on a Nawabi cuisine trip. My idea was to do a traditional Phirni to go with it. However, I ended up spending so much time creating my Zaffrani Paneer Tikka gravy and rest of the menu to compliment it, that I had no time left to get my Phirni done!
What a bummer! Don’t tell me I would have to rush to the neighbourhood Mithai shop and grab some readymade Gulab Jamuns! NO!!!
A bit disappointed I gave a cursory look around my pantry, and made one last attempt to de-panic my mind and think. Then I saw something…… half hidden behind a carton of Soya chunks, and it brought back a smile on my face!
Traditionally a Phirni preparation would involve slow cooking of pounded soaked Basmati rice in boiled full cream milk infused with saffron and cardamom; blended with condensed milk, cream and a coarse powder of pistachios, almonds and cashews.
As I pulled out the carton of Amul Basundi - My little Diwali secret, from the pantry, I had a mental to do list ready for getting my Phirni ready in the next 30 minutes.
All I needed was –
1 litre carton of Amul Basundi
¾ cup of Basmati Rice (coarsely pounded)
Everest Milk Masala
Cardamom Powder & Few strands of Saffron

Pressure cook the Basmati Rice for 3 whistles. Allow to cool down. Roughly mash the rice.
Meanwhile, pour the Basundi in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Add the mashed rice, cardamom powder, saffron and 1 teaspoon of Everest Milk masala keep stirring till the rice and basundi blend well, reaching a creamy consistency.
Pour in a serving bowl and allow it to cool. Once cooled a bit, refrigerate till the time of serving. Garnish with the Milk masala powder before serving.
Voila!  Phirni is ready.
When my guests went gaga over the Phirni, I had this contented smile on my face the whole time. After all, it was my little secret!

 Fruity Creamy Pastry

Some years back, I remember that the Independence Day weekend was a long weekend that time and on Friday night itself, before I knew it I was coaxed by my 8-year olds, to give an affirmative answer for an impromptu Pyjama Party.

So by 8pm, some 7 odd kids had arrived all set with pyjamas and tooth brushes in their backpacks.

Kids and I spent all afternoon and better part of the evening planning and preparing for the party games that they would play with their friends that night. The dinner menu was, on popular demand, to be outsourced from their favourite pizza haunt.

So we decided to dish out something at home for dessert. It was their party, so kids wanted to make the dessert. A quick dash to the neighbourhood convenience store and we were all set to get the dessert ready.

We called it the Fruity Creamy Pastry.

To get our Fruity Creamy Pastry going, we got ourselves some easy to find ingredients –
One 2-pound vanilla sponge cake (round shaped one is better)
200g Fresh cream
2-4 tablespoons of powdered sugar
A small tin of canned mixed fruit (if you have the time, its best to use fresh cut fruit like papaya, pineapple, pear, apples and cherry soaked in sugar syrup)
1-2 drops of vanilla essence
Some candies or tit-bits for decoration
To start with, we need to get the fresh cream, powdered sugar and vanilla essence mixed together and whipped with the electrical mixie to medium stiffness.
Cut the cake horizontally into 4 discs. Place the lower most disc on a flat plate or a large container with a flat base. Drizzle with a little fruity syrup just to maintain the moistness of the pastry as it needs to be refrigerated. Cover the disc with a thin layer of whipped cream. Place the fruit pieces on this cream layer. Take the next cake disc and apply a thin layer of whipped cream on the lower side and press the creamed side lightly onto the fruit layer aligning with the lower disc. Again drizzle fruity syrup and repeat till the fourth disc has been firmly placed on the top. Spread evenly all the remaining whipped cream on the top. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
Finish with decorating the icing layer with colorful sugar candies/ chocolate chips/ candied cherries/ tutty fruity/ gems/ fresh cut seasonal fruit/ thick puree of strawberry or blueberry. Refrigerate again for 20 minutes. Cut the set pastry into 8 portions and serve.
While we were at the recipe, after whipping the cream and slicing the cake, my role became that of a supervisor only and kids took over. All the layering including the garnish was by them, their own version.
And how they beamed when their friends raved about the Yummy creation! And so very proud when it got polished off!
A sure shot good way to spend quality time with your kids and let their creative juices flow! You never know what ‘out of the box’ creative ideas they come up with when they make their own version.
So go ahead…. Make the most of their holiday and give your boys and girls another occasion to unleash their creativity ….. Be prepared to be surprised and indulge!

Zucchini & Asparagus Rice
There is this premium food store which was a hop and skip from my office and one of my favorites at that. I was a regular there and picked up almost all my grocery needs from there. So just before my last day at work a week back, I made a quick trip to the store during lunch to take a last dig at picking up some of the things that I have so grown used to. Last dig, because I would no longer be visiting there often. It is a nice and long 75-80 minutes drive from my home.
So while I stocked up my regular breads and pastas and pestos and salad bags, I also picked up some fresh zucchini and asparagus. You don’t get these very easily around the place I live, so it was more like an impulse buy.
Back home, I wanted to use both these and dish out some quick yummy food. I squared down on making two dishes - a Pasta Farfalle with Basil Pesto and a Zucchini & Asparagus Rice.
I will take you guys through the pasta preparation some other time, today let’s quickly check out the Zucchini & Asparagus Rice… its quick, nutritious and of course… yummy!!

So we start with 1 fresh zucchini sliced and halved and about 5 spears of asparagus trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces.

We also need,

½ tablespoon of home made clear butter
1 mid-sized onion, chopped
½ teaspoon each of dried spices - oregano, basil & thyme
½ teaspoon of finely chopped garlic
¼ teaspoon pepper
Salt to taste
2 cups of water
1 cup long grain rice, washed thoroughly.
In a cooking pan, melt butter and add chopped onion and garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes till brown and then add the zucchini and asparagus. Saute again for about 5-6 minutes till the veggies are bit tender.
Add the dried spices, pepper and salt. Mix well so that the veggies are fully covered with the seasoning. Add the uncooked rice and stir fry for about 2 minutes and then add the water. Stir well and cook covered on medium flame for about 10-15 minutes or till the rice is tender.
It’s ready to serve! Enjoy while it’s hot.

Coffee Cream Pudding

I celebrated my birthday two months back, all my super enthu friends made this one, a very berry merry extra special for me.
From phone calls at 12am, surprise cake cutting at 5.30am followed by a surprise breakfast party, a relaxed set lunch at a fancy Italian restaurant, flower baskets and cakes got home delivered, a lively family dinner at my favorite haunt and finally cutting a chocolate cake at night; I was on cloud nine having enjoyed all the pampering.
I have this lovely bunch of friends who celebrated my birthday in a most ‘out of the box’ way. I will leave the details for some other time and get straight to the most exciting part of this blog. So along with a number of very peculiar birthday gifts that I got from them, these guys presented me with fresh baked CUP CAKES, number equaling the milestone I reached. JJ
At the end of all celebrations, I was still left with a dozen odd cupcakes. And that was what I would have wanted! Awesome!!! I decided to do the next best thing….
A Coffee and Cream dessert!!
To make yourself a Coffee & Cream dessert, you would of course need…. CUP Cakes!
You also would be using…
4 cups of coffee decoction (2 -3 tsps of instant coffee powder and 2 tsps of sugar dissolved in 4 cups of hot water & cooled)
Vanilla custard of pouring consistency using 500ml milk, with 2 tsp coffee powder blended in
200g Fresh whipped cream with castor sugar OR for those in a hurry, just get a pack of Instant Whipped cream. You will get awesome whipped cream ready in about 6 minutes.
Sweetened cocoa powder for dusting
Some sprinkles for decoration
This dessert is best made directly in serve sized bowls. Once cupcake per bowl.
Starting with cutting the cupcake horizontally in to three layers, set the bottom piece in the serving bowl. Soak it with the coffee decoction till it is fully moist. Pour a layer of the custard mixture. Repeat with middle and top layer of the cake followed by the custard mix. Set in the freezer for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile get the fresh/ instant whipped cream ready. Take the bowls from the freezer, and add a final layer of whipped cream. Lightly dust the cocoa powder on the top. Cocoa and coffee together leaves this yummy lingering taste in the mouth.
Freeze again for about 15 minutes. And your Coffee & Cream dessert is ready to serve…. Happy binging!

Mango Twist Dessert

The other day Shaina sent me a message on WhatsApp. She was having family over for dinner and she wanted me to give her some quick fix yummy of a dessert.
She was sure she wanted something that uses Mango icecream. So there we were, with the Mango season gone, but Mango flavour still being the favourite amongst ice cream lovers.
Serving mango delicacies with a twist can really tickle the taste buds and leave a lingering taste on your tongue long after polishing the bowl off its contents!
So we met up to discuss recipes over a lunch at our favourite haunt.
 I suggested she use a combination of vanilla cake base with tinned mango pulp and a dollop of fresh Alphonso ice-cream and finish it with a topping with a twist. Had it been the mango season, the obvious choice of topping would have been fresh cut juicy mango pieces. But in this month of July, she had to be more innovative to get a topping to add that twist. I suggested a swirl of fresh whipped cream in case she couldn’t think of something zanier.  But being my friend after all, “normal is boring” is her motto too J .
So here is what she got, to serve 6 people, a Mango Twist dessert. You start with half a pound of vanilla sponge cake cut into thin slabs and positioned at the bottom of each dessert bowl.
Then, we also need,
3 cups of Alphonso mango pulp (fresh pureed or tin)
12 scoops of Alphonso Mango ice-cream or Homemade Low fat Mango Fro – Yo (Frozen Yogurt made from double toned milk for the health conscious  J )
1 cup Fresh cream mildly sweetened
And for the topping – fresh whipped cream or strawberry flavoured jelly set and cut into cubes.
Pour half cup mango pulp into each bowl to cover the entire cake base. Allow the cake to soak the pulp for 10 minutes and then leave in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to set.
Out of the refrigerator, drizzle sweetened fresh cream on the set mango cake before you add two scoops of mango ice-cream or the Fro-Yo.
Top it with a swirl of whipped cream and a cherry. Or you can add chunks of strawberry jelly as Shaina did.  She tells me it turned out to be a hit with her guests.
I am going to try my hand this week at giving this dessert its signature by trying out some novel ingredients along with the Fro-Yo.
Do you want to try something innovative with this one too? Let’s try make this preparation healthier and more happening.  Try out your version and write back to me with your yummy expressions!!
Happy innovating!
Will meet you again soon with more creative cuisine…

Its 4pm, I am at work and hubby dear calls to check with me if it is ok to have guests for dinner tonight. It’s his counterpart from across the world in town for the evening and hence there is no scope to check for a reschedule.
So I rush through the rest of my day, scramble through the store to pick few instant soup pouches, some basic ingredients for a quick fix pasta with chicken and veggies, salad veggies and for dessert of course.
My pasta is going to take me about 30 minutes, the soup about 15 minutes and salad another 15 minutes. Considering that I have little over an hour to get my meal ready, I must do a dessert that gets done real fast and can be served soon after preparing it.
And then I thought of the bread pudding my mom used to make with dates and walnuts and serve with 20 minutes of my demand. I modified it to suit the palate of the guests we were expecting and dished out a yummy variation of our good old bread pudding. 
So here we go with a quick fix dessert that is healthy, delicious and ready in a jiffy….
So if we are making the pudding for 3-4 people who would eat a decent helping, we need about 10 slices of whole wheat bread that is 2-3 days stale. Crumb the bread coarsely and line half of it at the bottom of a microwave flat bottom dish.
We also need…
3-4 eggs 

500ml toned milk

1 cup sugar

Few drops of vanilla essence

8-10 Fresh strawberries or 2 banana  sliced

2-3 tbsp of Caramel sauce

Handful of chocolate chips and nougat

Beat the eggs stiff and fold in the milk and vanilla essence. Pour half the mixture on the bread lined in the dish soaking all the bread. Add a layer of the sliced fruits and top it with rest of the crumbed bread covering the entire dish. Pour the remaining mixture on to this. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and nougat on the top and microwave on high for about 4 minutes. Insert a knife in the middle of the pudding, if it comes out clean, the pudding is done. Else, microwave for 30 seconds at a time checking continuously if it’s done.

Once ready, allow to cool for about 15 minutes. Cut into squares and serve topped with caramel sauce.

Seasonal fruits like mango also can be used as a filling and then the pudding can be topped with mango sauce and fresh pomegranate seeds.

If strawberries are used as filling we can also use strawberry sauce and whipped cream as a topping.

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