Sunday, August 28, 2011

Foodbuzz 24x24: Celebrating the Spirit of New York City with a m&m fiesta

It is an honor being part of the 24X24, a virtual feast organized by Foodbuzz across the globe. I appreciate all the efforts taken by the team in hosting this fabulous feast for its readers. I also thank two of our friends who were able to make it for a real quick bite in spite of Hurricane Irene expected on Sunday. We had an early party & missed watching a NYC spectacular - Jets vs Giants Game, which will now be played on Monday evening. Yet we had great fun, specially the Kids who loved every treat we prepared for the day. I pray to the Almighty that all goes well for everyone on the east coast...and God bless America !!!
Through this post I would like to share a menu for a Summer Fiesta out of my favorite treat - m&m's. It's all about Celebrating the Spirit of New York City - its Sports Teams, its Cultural heritage & its great Landmarks. The m&m's are picked from my fav "m&m store" in Times square, NYC. In this post, I'm  incorporating the Photographs from m&m shopping experience at the store; Pictures & shots from the Party Table.

The m&m's were named the official candy of the new millenium and Today of my Feast too!!! 

I Welcome You all to My Sweet World of m&m's..... !

I fondly remember that cold week of December 2008, when I visited New York for the first time. While deciding what all we wanted to cover in that short span of one week or so we thought a lot. With a young toddler in my lap, we wanted to see more of kids attractions than anything else. The very first destination was obviously Statue of Liberty, then came to Times Square. It was an awesome experience & we relive it every time we are back at Time Square.
We were back in the city Last week to pick our Raw Materials, the First step was to pick our m&m's at the m&m Store Time Square. Although my Son & my Husband happily took roles of m&m pickers, with the abundance of variety this activity was tricky. Almost 3 lbs & 45 minutes we managed to finish this part of our preparation & the m&m store. 

Always Happy to fill his Bags of m&m's....!

 @ m&m Store, Times Square, New York City

A Huge Huge Huge Variety to Choose from .... !!!
m&m Assortments - Giving way to Idea Generation !!!!!

NYC HomeRun Mix theme m&m's for my cupcakes.... !

Yellow Cab themed m&m's for our Cookies.... !

A Slam Dunk Mix & Touchdown Mix too !!!!!!

In 1950, m&m's gets it First 'm' imprinted in black, later changed to white !

Job Done, Taking a quick Break !

If you havent been there, you must go to enjoy the experience. Here's a sample of what we brought home ;

Starters for the day were Crostini's and Banana Pops.
Crostini Nutella Toasts with m&m's: Crostini's were liberally brushed with Almond butter, Peanut butter and sprinkled some mini m n m's. They were gorgeous to look and crunchy to munch. All in all so much fun to make and enjoy...!

Banana Pops Studded with m&m's: A sweet treat for the little guests with a healthy banana pops. They were studded with mini m & m's and were a huge success amongst the toddlers...!

Drink of the day was Frozen Yogurt Cooler.
Frozen Yogurt Shake - This is dedicated to The Statue of Liberty. This shake was made by blending green m&m's, frozen yogurt with a shot of Mint and this wonderful drink was a hit cooler of the day, especially amongst the little one's... !

Yummy Chocolate Ice cream Shake Topped with Whipped Cream and M&M's:
Orange & Blue m&m's topped Ice Cream shakes for all the Mets  fans.
Blue and Grey m&m's topped Ice Cream shakes for all the Yankee fans.

Yankee Fan or a Mets Fan ?????

Main Course Desserts for the day was a combo of Rainbow Cake and Football Mini Cupcakes.
Golden Rainbow Cake with Hazelnut Spread and loads of M & M's: Everybody had a chance to cut the awesome cake, which was embedded with multi-colored little milk chocolate and peanut butter m &m's... !!! 

I baked extra moist Mini cupcakes that were layered with sour cream and topped with  Red and Blue m&m's to give it a Giants theme. Another bunch of little cupcakes were layered with chocolate and topped with  green and white m&m's to give it a Jets theme... !

Grey, Blue & Red m&m's with a Sour Cream Topping - for Giants fans

White & Green m&m with choco fudge topping for Jets Fans

NYC Yellow Cab  Taxi Themed Cookies
The Taxicabs of New York City, with their distinctive yellow paint, are a widely recognized icon of the New York City. Here we have used Yellow/Brown m&m's with mini Oreos to create  Yellow cab cookies. 

Yellow Cab Cookies made with m&m's and Oreo's

The m&m's were the guests of honor in our special evening. 

This post of mine is dedicated to this cute chocolate candy and have created all my appetizers, drinks and desserts with irresistible m&m's, which are aways fun to nibble. Finally, a Big Cheers to all Readers of "My.Creative.Flavors" - I thank you all for visiting my m&m summer fiesta and being the part of this virtual feast....!!!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Soft Mini Pretzels with a choice of Mustard or Nutella

Pretzels ........ I've been waiting to bake some forever. When I came across this recipe from Martha Stewart, I finally felt confident that it was possible to bake my own version at home without much hassle. I didn't have sea salt handy so I made these without sea salt. Result was great - nice & soft pretzels. My husband would eat these with mustard & my son with Nutella. I prefer my dose of pretzels un-adulterated with a cup of warm Tea. Let us see how we did it...

Featured on FoodBuzz Top 9

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

1 teaspoon dry active yeast
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus some more for surface
A Pinch teaspoon red chilli powder
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
Vegetable oil, for baking sheets
1 and 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
Nutella/Mustard for serving

In a small bowl mix yeast, salt, sugar, and warm water, keep whisking until sugar dissolves. 
Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
In a separate bowl mix all-purpose flour and a pinch of red chilli powder.
Using a pastry cutter cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Slowly pour yeast mixture over flour mixture, stirring to combine. 
Using your hands, gather dough together. 
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead for ~5 minutes until it is no longer sticky.
Keep aside covered with plastic to rise for ~30 minutes.
Cut dough into 6 pieces, and roll each into ~12 inch rope. 
Form a U shape with 1 rope, and twist ends together twice. 
Fold twisted portion backward along center of U shape to form a circle
Now gently press ends of rope onto dough to seal the ends. 

Transfer to a well oiled baking sheet and repeat the process for remaining pretzels.. 
Leave to rise for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. 
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add baking soda. 
Boil pretzels in batches until puffed and slightly shiny 1 to 2 minutes per each side. 
Transfer to wire racks for the water to drain. 

Return to baking sheet and bake for ~15 mins or until golden brown and cooked through. 

Pretzels will keep, uncovered, at room temperature for up to 12 hours. 
Rewarm in a 250-degree oven if desired, and serve as desired.

You can have these with Mustard as Martha suggests, or Nutella as my little boy would do else, simply  have these plain, whichever way you eat i'm sure you'd enjoy the Pretzels.

Hope you like this & would let me know how much you did !!!!!!!!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Moods of New York City - Skyline in 24 Hours

Wake up to the City - Still @ 6:30AM

Sun bursting thru @ 8AM

Ready for an Afternoon Storm - Cloud Covered @ 4:30PM

Colors of the Night - Indian Tri-color Shining atop Empire State @ 8:30PM

Taken: Hoboken, NJ
Camera : Lumix GF1
Lens : 
Lumix G 20 mm f/1.7 Pancake 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Vegetarian 15 Bean Soup and Some Rain

The summers are always pleasant but this year around things it has been extremely hot and humid. The weather has been getting better since last week & thank God today we got some showers. We were thrilled to have a feel of some cool breeze after a long time and I longed to have some warm soup. Here I was reminded of the beans soup in my kitchen closet.

My Love Affair with Legumes, an event hosted by Sandhya's Kitchen rekindled my love with legumes too. Being a hard core vegetarian I like to eat and cook all sorts of legumes. I was lucky to be chosen for the draw of Hurst Beans box.

The box had many varieties of beans and vegetarian soups which even I had not given a shot and they were all so amazing. The beans could be savored any time and any day. So just give it a go and Check out the recipe of this high fiber and low fat soup.

15 beans by Hurst: 1 cup, Soaked for couple of hours
(Pinto beans, lima beans, green split peas, red kidney beans, cranberry beans, white and pink beans, red, yellow split pea, lentils, white beans, navy beans, baby lima, garbanzo, black eye bean)

Onion: 1/2 cup, finely chopped
Tomatoes: 2, Finely chopped
Ginger: 1 tsp, grated
Garam masala: 1/2 Tsp
Salt & Pepper: Season to taste
Olive oil: 2 tsp
Cilantro/Parsley to garnish
Seasonal Mixed Vegetables: 1/2 cup, optional
Vegetarian Seasoning Pack: 1 tsp or to taste (Comes with the soup!!!)

Wash and soak one cup of beans in warm water for 6-8 hours (preferably over night).
After soaking, drain the water and rinse the beans.
Boil the beans in a pressure cooker for 15-20 minutes, till the beans are soft to be mashed with a spoon.
In a nonstick pan, heat some olive oil and saute onions, ginger, tomatoes and veggies (if adding).
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the vegetarian seasoning  to the mix at this stage and simmer again for atleast 10-15 mins.
Garnish with finely chopped cilantro or Parsley.

Enjoy steaming hot bean soup.

Check out my another fav recipe of Moong Bean Sprouts .

Love... Sonia !!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Celebrating the Summer with a Spiced up Plum Jam

Three stone fruits that I can't keep my hands off in summer are - Plums, Peaches & Cherries. Having played with peaches & cherries I was dying to do some thing new with my bag full of plums from a recent trip to farmers market. My Son loves Jam on his toast & my husband adores it as well. Hence I thought I'd give a shot at Plum Jam recipe. As you see the recipe & results are pretty unconventional, the out put is pretty rewarding though. And mind it all vanished in no time. So lets see how we go about spiced plum jam !!!

2 cups pitted, chopped plums
2 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 teaspoon butter 
2-3 cloves
1 small piece cinnamon
2-3 Black pepper corns (freshly ground)
Juice of 1/2 Lemon - Freshly squeezed

Carefully cut plums into pieces (1 plum into 4 parts) taking the skin away & removing seeds.
It is said the working with pieces is always better for jam than working with fruit crushed in processor.
Combine cut plums & sugar in a pan.
Heat the mix , bring to boil & keep heating on medium heat for 30 minutes stirring regularly.
To impart a great RED color (and some Tang !),  we will treat some Plum skin in lemon juice for ~15 mins + 1 spoon of sugar in a separate pan for 5-10 minutes on medium.
You can add cloves, cinnamon, ginger powder & black pepper to this part of our mix at this stage.
This step is useful as it releases a bright red color from the skin that we peeled earlier & flavors from the spices.
Now we will add this to our main mixture only after passing through a fine mesh strainer.
You can also add butter one you combine moth mixes, it helps to reduce foaming.
This helps sugar mix really well with fruit pectin & prevents any chance of burning.
After 30 mins skim away foam if any - Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for another 5 minutes.  
Sterilize the jars and lids of the containers you plan to use in boiling water for at least 5 minutes. 
Unload the plum jam into the hot, sterilized jars, filling the jars to within 1/8 inch of the top.

A good practice is to run a knife or a thin spatula/spoon around the insides of the jars after they have been filled to remove any air bubbles. 
Wipe the rims of the jars with a paper towel to remove any moisture. 
Top with lids, and dont tighten at this stage. 
Leave your Jar in hot water bath to process for a minimum of 10 minutes.

Remove the jars & place on a wooden rack until cool. 

Once cool, tighten & seal the lid.
Store in a cool, dark area. 

Refrigerate & you are good to go for a few weeks.
Use the way you like it - on a toast, in a shake or just like that.


Our jam is free from preservatives & powdered pectin.
And as we have added the peel extract+spices it is a bit less firm & more turbid.
But, it has what you want - It is sweet, sour, spicy & Yummmmmmm !!!!!!!!!!

My 2 Jars vanished within 2 days..... which suggests that the boys loved it :)
Hope you'll give it a shot & tell me how it worked for you.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Anatomy of a Sweet or Meetha Paan !

As per Wikipedia - Paan, or pān is an Southeast Asian tradition of chewing betel leaf with Supari (or Areca Nut) and lime paste, and katha (or kaatha) brown powder paste, with many regional and local variations. Paan is normally chewed as a palate cleanser, a breath freshener, and has been found useful for digestive purposes.  

Paan is a symbolic end of meal intake at most food events & ceremonies in India and southeast Asia. Paan is prepared in various ways like plain (or sada), sweet or (Meetha) paan, where sugar, candied fruit and multicolored, sweetened, candy-like fennel seeds are used. Another very important ingredients of Pan is Gulkand, a weekend flavorful preserve made from rose petals. You can check the Recipe shared at MyCreativeFlavors here.

Today we will make my fvt version "Meetha or Sweet Paan". As you'd see I've not used strict ingredients like lime paste/katha/meethi chutney - but we would use many interesting & commonly available ingredients to prepare our Paan.

Paan leaves are easily available in most Indian Grocery stores, if not - you can find them at a Paan Corner at the nearest India Street in your town. I Picked up a Pack of 6 leaves for $3 only at my recent visit to Jersey City :)

Ingredients: -
(Makes 4 Meetha Paans)
4 Pan Leaves
Gulkand or Rose preserve - 4 Tsp
Areca nut or Supari Mix - 4 Tsp
Dry Roasted Fennel seeds or Saunf - 4 Tsp
Coconut Powder - 2 Tsp
Honey - 1 Tsp
Golden Raisins - 8
Cloves - 4
Cardamom Pods - 4

Method: -
Thoroughly wash the Paan leaf under running water & turn it upside down on a flat surface.
Slightly trim the leaf at the end to ensure that only soft part is used & Paan can be sealed easily later.
As we are not using lime paste or meethi chutney we will use a few drops of honey & spread around.

Now add 1 tsp of roasted fennel seeds (you can roast normal fennel seeds on your griddle at low heat for 5-6 minutes, helps develop the flavors).  Add 1 caradamom pod, a couple of raisins & 1 tsp of supari mix.

Evenly Spread 1/2 Tsp of coconut powder at top of all the ingredients.

Now the best bit,
Drop a liberal dose of Gulkand in the middle (at least 1 Tsp).
Yumm.. Yumm... I ate 2 Tsps in the process, he he... never mind !!!
We will start assembling our Paan now.
As shown below lift one end of the leaf & fold it towards center of the leaf.
Now lift the opposite end & bring it on top of previous fold , press with a finger as you bring the third end.
Once you have all the ends neatly folded we would have a triangular shape.
Time to seal the deal with a clove in the middle.

There are many ways of closing the leaf, professionals roll it , twist it,  bend it.....
But this is the way I do it at home.

Feel free to play with the ingredients, I normally add a double shot of Gulkand & some extra fennel.

Now wait to finish your dinner, and as soon as you are done,
Have a glass of water, Open your mouth wide, and Slide in the Beauty, start Chewing !!!!!!
As lovely as the process of eating it is - as described above :)
You can feel the juices flow & flavors burst in your mouth,
Your Palate feels refreshed & reverberating with freshness of flavors..

No other food can give you this experience that Paan gives you.
If you make it ahead of your dinner make sure to keep it refrigerated.
This Royal treat is surely gonna make your day.

Take Care & Enjoy
Hugs... Sonia

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